The Florida judge responsible for the secret trial against Trump files a dossier

By means of Sam Cabral, BBC News, Washington

Judge Aileen Cannon, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of FloridaUnited States District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Critics say Judge Aileen Cannon has surrendered to Trump's delaying tactics

The Florida district judge overseeing Donald Trump's classified documents trial is under investigation for a series of controversial statements related to the case.

Judge Aileen Cannon is already under fire for delaying the trial, making it almost certain it won't happen before the November election. If Trump wins and retakes the White House, he could order the Justice Department to drop the case.

Now she is being criticized for considering arguments that could thwart the process itself.

Trump has argued that special counsel Jack Smith – who has filed charges against him in Florida and Washington – was unlawfully appointed.

Critics argue that Judge Cannon, an inexperienced Trump appointee, has made rulings favorable to him and that pre-trial cases have taken too long to be resolved.

Who is Judge Cannon?

Aileen Cannon has served in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida since 2020.

The secret documents case was randomly assigned to her last year from a group of four available judges.

Judge Cannon, 43, was born in Colombia, the daughter of a Cuban exile and grew up in Miami.

She has maintained ties with the conservative Federalist Society since law school and once clerked for a conservative appeals court judge.

The Trump case is by far her most high-profile yet.

She was working as an assistant U.S. attorney in Florida on appeals when Trump gave her a lifetime appointment to the federal bench in 2020.

a review from the New York Times Of the cases she has supervised since then, only four have gone to trial, all of which are short and simple legal proceedings.

It reported this week that, shortly after she took on the Trump case last June, two of her more senior colleagues urged her to step aside and hand the case to someone else.

They recommended a judge closer to Miami, whose court has a secure facility where sensitive files can be kept. Miami is also home to the grand jury that indicted Trump.

Judge Cannon practices alone in Fort Pierce, two hours north of Miami, and the federal court there now has a secure facility built at taxpayer expense.

grey placeholderGetty Images Donald Trump drives a golf cart, accompanied by aide Walt NautaGetty Images

Walt Nauta (left) is one of Trump's two co-suspects

Did she favor Trump?

grey placeholderUS Department of Justice Boxes of classified information in Mr. Trump's possessionUS Department of Justice

A box of classified files was found in a storage room in Mar a Lago

After the FBI discovered thousands of classified files at Mar-a-Lago in August 2022, Trump sued the government for its “despicable raid” and for “illegally seizing” documents he said were his personal property.

He demanded that the court appoint a third party to investigate what was taken.

Judge Cannon denied investigators access to the evidence and appointed a so-called “special master” to assess whether documents were protected under executive privilege — a legal doctrine that would prevent the government from seeing Trump's documents.

She ordered the special master to make his recommendations to her alone so that she could make a final decision.

These actions were later rebuked by a three-judge panel of the appeals court, which stated that Judge Cannon had attempted to “create a special exception” for Trump.

Such was the perception of what she had done that Cecilia Antonaga, the chief judge in the Southern District of Florida, called Judge Cannon after she was assigned the case and advised her not to supervise it. according to the New York Times.

She refused again.

grey placeholderGetty Images A Trump supporter clashes with a protester outside a hearing in Mr. Trump's case over classified documentsGetty Images

As during his presidency, Trump's criminal charges have divided the country

Since taking the case, she has repeatedly pushed back deadlines and a trial that was once scheduled to begin in May now has no start date.

She has also spoken out against the prosecution several times and held hearings on most of the claims — including the far-fetched ones — made by Trump's defense team.

Government lawyers have clashed with the judge several times, including at a hearing in March where one urged her to “keep things moving.”

“I can assure you that there is a lot of judicial work going on in the background,” she responded.

“So while it may not seem like anything is happening at first glance, a lot of work is being done.”

But it is a three-day hearing that started on Friday that now poses the greatest danger to this process.

Judge Cannon will allow arguments on whether Mr. Smith was lawfully appointed as special counsel. Trump claims not, because the US Senate has not confirmed him, while the Justice Department claims Attorney General Merrick Garland has the authority to appoint special counsel.

The judge will also hear a defense issue about how Mr. Smith's office was funded, and prosecutors' request for a gag order against Trump.

She will grant speaking time at these hearings to outside parties, including right-wing nonprofits and former government officials.

grey placeholderGetty Images The courthouse in Fort PierceGetty Images

Judge Cannon's court in Fort Pierce is two hours north of Miami

Can she be removed from the case?

In April, Judge Cannon denied Trump's bid to dismiss the charges against him on the grounds that the classified documents were his under the Presidential Records Act.

Calls for her removal have increased, but disqualifying a federal judge from a case is not easy.

A request from Mr Smith's team to remove her would have to be made to the judge himself.

The court of appeal that also oversees its court has the authority to reassign a case “to maintain the public's image of absolute impartiality and fairness of the judiciary.”

This can happen through the independent action of the court or at the insistence of the special prosecutor's team.

All three approaches are likely to slow the process further.

And with little chance now that proceedings are set to begin before the election, a returning President Trump could simply dismiss the case by pardoning himself, firing Mr. Smith or ordering his Justice Department to drop the case.

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