Calls grow for Judge Aileen Cannon to recuse herself in Trump documents case

United States District Judge Aileen M. Cannon and former President Donald Trump.  (Photos: via Wikicommons, Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

United States District Judge Aileen M. Cannon and former President Donald Trump. (Photos: via Wikicommons, Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

A chorus of legal experts is calling on District Court Judge Aileen Cannon to recuse herself from the trial of former President Donald Trump on charges related to his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House.

A Trump appointee, during the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s retention of national security information at his private residence and social club in Palm Beach, Florida.

Richard Painter, the White House’s chief ethics counsel under George W. Bush, Norman Eisen, who had the same job for Barack Obama, and Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21, a nonpartisan advocacy organization of good government, that Cannon “must recuse himself from the case.

“Judge Cannon’s earlier and fundamentally flawed approach casts a shadow over the proceedings,” the bipartisan trio wrote. “Because his previous handling of this case went far beyond the judicial standard and was roundly criticized by the Court of Appeal, reasonable observers of this case might question his impartiality.”

Why was Cannon chosen in the first place?

On Friday, experts inferred that Cannon was named because she previously oversaw Trump’s lawsuit demanding the appointment of a “special master” to block government access to documents over which Trump claims executive privilege.

But on Saturday night, Chief Clerk of the Southern District of Florida Cannon was also randomly assigned to the criminal trial. Judges cover certain geographic areas, so Cannon attracts 50% of cases to the courthouse in West Palm Beach, Florida, the clerk explained.

The opposition grows

Federal prosecutors, including many Republicans and even former Trump attorney general William Barr, have strongly criticized Cannon’s handling of Trump’s trial, which they consider frivolous.

The appointed special master Cannon said by Trump’s assertion of executive privilege over classified documents after leaving office. Cannon’s decision was the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which included two judges also appointed by Trump.

How Cannon could change the outcome of the case

“Trial judges can affect the timing and form of cases in several ways”, . “They can rule on motions to dismiss charges or the entire indictment, decide what evidence is admitted or excluded, and answer a host of other critical questions.”

A point of contention will be that a federal judge in Washington granted a request by prosecutors to apply the ‘criminal fraud exception’ to solicitor-client privilege in conversations of Trump’s lawyer, Evan Corcoran, with the ex-president. Lawyers for the Justice Department – ​​pointing to Corcoran’s notes that Trump suggested lying to federal investigators about the existence of hundreds of classified documents in his possession – argued that Trump used Corcoran’s legal services in the prosecution of a crime.

The Daily Beast reported on Saturday night that in an effort to get Cannon to have Corcoran’s evidence excluded from the trial.

“If Cannon agrees that the jury should not hear all of Corcoran’s evidence, the Justice Department’s case will not be over, but it will be severely hampered”, .

What are the rules governing the disqualification of a judge?

The federal law governing recusal states that a judge must recuse if his or her impartiality “could reasonably be called into question.” Stephen Gillers, professor emeritus at NYU Law, said Cannon was forced to recuse herself because she had shown favoritism to Trump in past rulings.

“She had a soft spot for Trump as a former president, which should have no bearing on how this trial unfolds.” “I fear that the bias she expressed in her decisions last year creates a reasonable perception in the mind of an impartial person that she is not impartial – which is the test.”

“For her to reappear as a judge presiding over this historic trial would cast a shadow over a proceeding that should be, and should be seen to be, entirely impartial and legally sound,” the Harvard law professor said.

What happens next?

If Cannon does not voluntarily withdraw from the case, the Justice Department can file a motion asking it to do so. If she refuses, the government can file a mandamus petition with Cannon’s superiors in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. A panel of three judges would then decide whether to remove Cannon. “Mandamus efforts are rarely successful,” Gillers warned.

On Monday afternoon, the Miami Herald reported that Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman Tuesday, but Cannon “will still remain on the landmark case as lead judge.”

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