First, she blocked FBI special agents from peeking at the classified documents they recovered from Mar-a-Lago. Then she appointed a special court arbitrator whom former President Donald Trump wanted to slow down the investigation into his mishandling of classified documents.
But now it’s clear that District Court Judge Aileen Cannon already knew the Justice Department was ready to return Trump a ton of personal records six days before she claimed the former president was “suffering from a real harm” by being “deprived of potentially important personal data”. documents. »
The “medical records” she feared would be leaked to the press by federal authorities — what she called an “irreparable harm risk” to the former president — were actually a note from the doctor Trump gave her. -even went public during his bid for the White House in 2016 as part of a publicity stunt.
A description in court records says the feds were trying to return an addendum to the infamous letter that a Manhattan doctor quickly typed emphatically stating, “If he gets elected, Mr. Trump, I can say so.” unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.
Those details became public when the court messed up Tuesday night and released a sealed DOJ brief on the public record, which was quickly seized by Bloomberg reporter Zoe Tillmann.
Judge Cannon’s latest ruling on Mar-a-Lago has just been overturned
The Aug. 30 letter to the judge, which is marked “sealed,” exposes the extremely cautious manner in which the DOJ handled its raid on Mar-a-Lago earlier that month. The FBI has asked a “privilege review team” of agents and attorneys to conduct an initial sweep and sort through evidence to set aside anything that could taint a possible prosecution of the former president, like confidential letters between him and one of his 35 different lawyers.
In the letter, a DOJ attorney representing this “corruption team” explained that three weeks after goods were seized in the Florida oceanfront estate, the team was ready to return 43 items that weren’t had nothing to do with the investigation: legal documents ranging from his confidential settlement with the Professional Golfers’ Association to bills from his lawyer Alina Habba.
The revelation makes it even more apparent just how far Cannon went to appease the president who gave him a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. And that only adds to what has become a resounding consensus among legal scholars that Cannon is squarely on Trump’s side.
Trump’s attorneys, who have shopped for her in the past, appeared to do so again when they filed this lawsuit to freeze the FBI investigation. Avoiding the South Florida magistrate judge who originally approved the search warrant and was already overseeing the case, Trump’s attorneys marked the case as unrelated to other pending litigation, referring it to another judge and ending up with Cannon.
In the very first court hearing, Cannon signaled a deep distrust of the DOJ and journalists. She expressed her belief that the FBI’s investigation of Trump for mishandling “top secret” records was somehow separate from the federal government’s damage assessment of whether the nation’s secrets were at risk. . Legal analysts Teri Kanefield, Harry Litman, and others have been distressed by Cannon’s bizarre legal reasoning.
At every turn since, she’s given Trump’s lawyers exactly what their client wanted most: time to burn.
“She’s just giving him the time he asked for,” said Peter M. Shane, a legal scholar at New York University School of Law. “She has obvious sympathy for Trump’s assertion that, as a former president, he deserves super consideration.”
Trump Pick Raymond Dearie Named Special Counsel in Mar-a-Lago Case
Trump’s lawyers wanted to put the brakes on the FBI’s investigation. Cannon barred officers from reviewing classified documents.
They wanted to appoint a “special master” to micromanage the DOJ and review whether any documents seized could be considered privileged presidential filings or attorney-client communication. Cannon didn’t just appoint one, she picked whatever semi-retired judge they wanted.
Then, when Raymond Dearie turned out to be a no-nonsense arbitrator who wanted to speed up this process – dangerously cornering Trump’s lawyers by telling them to formally explain whether Trump had indeed declassified these records – Cannon came out of nowhere to call him back. . .
“That’s how a judge would behave…if his motivation was simply to be of service to Trump,” Shane told The Daily Beast.
The DOJ has already been moderately successful in appealing its decisions. The Eleventh Circuit, despite its conservative leanings, restored the FBI’s ability to continue examining classified government documents extracted from Mar-a-Lago. And on Wednesday, the Atlanta federal appeals court granted the DOJ’s pleas and agreed to expedite the appeal that could end the entire “special master” ordeal.
Trump went shopping with the judge and it paid off in the Mar-a-Lago case
But as the case progresses through this process, legal experts fear that Cannon will continue to micromanage the micromanager she chose.
“She seems to be cooperating pretty well with the former president,” said University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias.
Dearie was once Brooklyn’s top federal prosecutor and became a federal judge, including a seven-year stint at the coveted and hyper-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, where the federal government seeks judicial approval to conduct certain types of spy on strangers. His role in the case could get things done fairly, though some legal scholars are beginning to question whether he’ll stick around.
“He’s a person who’s spent 38 years building his huge reputation. If I was a judge for 38 years…I wouldn’t want to be ordered around by someone who is a Trump lackey,” Tobias said.
But his potential to harm the FBI’s investigation is far from over. Dearie’s role is simply to be a temporary arbiter to guide the process of reviewing potentially privileged documents. His decision is not even final. Any conclusions he draws will always be subject to the approval of Cannon, who is 37 years his junior and was a newborn in Columbia when he already ran the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York when the crime rate was skyrocketing.
The Justice Department just eviscerated the Trump-appointed judge in the Mar-a-Lago case
Tobias pointed out that every day the case stays with Cannon is a step in the wrong direction, noting that she should have done the right thing: acknowledged that this case was already an extension of Mar-a-Lago’s search and referred her to Bruce Reinhart, the magistrate judge who approved the search warrant.
“I just don’t think she ever had any skill,” Tobias said. “She could have referred this to the magistrate. To the extent that this case had any validity, it belonged there rather than having this. They went forum shopping to get it. This raises all sorts of issues. »
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