Who is Judge Cannon? Critics pounce after Trump appointee assigned to classified docs case

Federal district court Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Trump appointee who sits in the Southern District of Florida, was assigned to oversee the criminal case against the former president and Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, for his handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Cannon’s assignment drew controversy because of her ruling in an earlier lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida, which Trump filed two weeks after the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) raid at his Mar-a-Lago residence on the island of Palm Beach on Aug. 8, 2022. In September, Cannon ruled in Trump’s favor that an independent special master be appointed to review the records seized by the FBI after it was revealed that his medical and tax records and other personal information, in addition to the over 300 classified documents and thousands of other records, had been confiscated by the government. Cannon also ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to stop its own review of the material pending completion of the special master’s investigation. The move outraged liberals, and some accused Cannon of giving Trump special treatment. BILL BARR SAYS TRUMP’S INDICTMENT IS ‘VERY DAMNING’ IF ‘EVEN HALF OF IT IS TRUE’ “A Trump judge delivers for Trump in a big way,” disgraced former CBS anchor Dan Rather tweeted at the time. “Delays now could lead to further chaos and mischief on his part. A big win for Trump. A big loss for accountability. News organizations should dive deep into what Trump did to politicize the federal judiciary.”  Federal prosecutors argued at the time that appointing a special master would delay their investigation, that Trump didn’t have standing for his request, and that he didn’t have a right to possess the classified documents. On Sept. 15, Cannon appointed a special master in the case after both Trump and the DOJ agreed to choose Reagan appointee Raymond Dearie, the former chief judge of the federal court in the Eastern District of New York. The DOJ appealed the next day, which was granted several days later by the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. The DOJ was allowed to continue its investigation, and Dearie was blocked from accessing them. On Dec. 1, the appeal was granted, reversing Cannon’s order. TRUMP RAILS AGAINST BIDEN, ‘DEEP STATE’ AT FIRST SPEECH AFTER CLASSIFIED DOCS INDICTMENT: ‘POLITICAL HIT JOB’ “This is a smackdown,” Palm Beach County Attorney Dave Aronberg said at the time on MSNBC. “It says that Judge Cannon should never have exercised jurisdiction over this matter.” Trump is facing 37 felony counts related to the mishandling of classified documents, according to an indictment unsealed Friday that alleges that he improperly shared a Pentagon “plan of attack” and a classified map related to a military operation. The New York Times reported Friday that Cannon, who was nominated by Trump in 2020, had been assigned to the case. The chief clerk of the court said the assignment was random and that “normal procedures were followed.” The clerk also confirmed that the assignment is permanent unless Cannon recuses herself. Slate senior writer Mark Joseph Stern fretted that Cannon’s appointment “can absolutely sink” the DOJ’s prosecution of Trump but is “excellent news” for the former president. Critics immediately called on Cannon to recuse herself. “I don’t have confidence in her abilities to be fair or to be seen as fair,” former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told MSNBC host Jen Psaki.  “This is bad news for everyone except Trump,” tweeted former Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich. “For a case as important as this one, it’s critical to have a judge who is experienced, smart, and impartial. Judge Cannon fails on each of these dimensions. If she has any self-awareness, she should recuse herself.” Under federal law, if prosecutors reasonably believe the judge cannot be fair, they could file an affidavit asking that Cannon recuse herself from the case, arguing that she has a personal bias or prejudice. If she finds the affidavit is “sufficient,” she must step down. She also must step down if it could be argued that her “impartiality might reasonably be questioned” by the parties or the public. Cannon was born in Colombia in 1981 and came to the U.S. as a child, growing up in Miami. She got her undergraduate degree at Duke University and her juris doctor at the University of Michigan School of Law. According to her application to serve as a federal judge, Cannon worked in several law firms and served as a law clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in Des Moines, Iowa. She started serving as an assistant U.S. attorney in Fort Pierce in 2013 until her appointment in 2020. Cannon became a member of the Federalist Society in 2005 and said she was a current member on her application. The conservative legal organization has championed judges appointed by Trump, including Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. She said in her application that she was first approached by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., about applying for the judicial vacancy in the Southern District of Florida, and after a series of interviews was informed by the White House nine months later that she was being considered for the nomination. The Trump campaign did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request seeking comment on the calls for Cannon’s recusal. Fox News’ Jake Gibson, Mitch Picasso, Brooke Singman and Gabriel Hays, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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