Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Robert Tait in Washington

Judge in Trump classified documents case reportedly refused to step aside

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Photograph: Giorgio Viera/AFP/Getty Images

Aileen Cannon, the Florida judge who has come under fire for her handling of classified document charges against Donald Trump, ignored the advice of more senior colleagues to decline the case and pass it to another jurist, it has been reported.

Two senior judges on the Florida bench urged Cannon to defer when it was randomly assigned to her last June, in part due to a perception that she was biased in Trump’s favour because of her actions after the allegations against him of illegally retaining sensitive government documents first came to light.

According to the New York Times, Cannon – who was appointed to the federal bench by Trump – rejected the advice and kept the case, in which the former president faces charges being prosecuted by the special counsel Jack Smith.

She has since issued a series of widely criticised rulings that have had the effect of delaying the trial, playing into Trump’s legal strategy of holding the case at bay until after November’s presidential election, when he could be elected president once again and be in a position to instruct the Department of Justice to drop the charges.

Her rulings have drawn the scorn of Trump’s former White House counsel, Ty Cobb, who this month described as “dangerous and incendiary” Cannon’s refusal to grant a gag order request from Smith against Trump.

Smith had asked for the order after the former president falsely alleged that the FBI was “locked and loaded” and ready to kill him and his family when officers entered his Mar-a-Lago home to retrieve a trove of documents in 2022. In fact, the raid had been agreed with Trump’s lawyers in advance and timed to take place when he would not be present.

The attempt to persuade Cannon to step aside was reportedly prompted by her actions after the FBI seized the documents – when she intervened on Trump’s side after he had filed suit claiming they were his personal property, appointing a special master to review them before prosecutors had a chance to see them.

This ruling was later reversed by the 11th court of appeals in Atlanta, which issued a rebuke of Cannon’s judgment, saying she had no authority to bar investigators from seeing the documents.

The argument that this episode was sufficient reason for Cannon to pass on the case was reportedly put forward by Cecilia Altonaga, the chief judge of Florida’s southern district.

Another unnamed judge was said to have put a different line of reasoning to her – that it would be better to have the case transferred to a jurist based closer to the district’s busiest courthouse in Miami, which had a facility to store the classified documents and where Trump had initially been indicted.

Since Cannon rejected entreaties to defer the case to another judge, a secure facility to store the documents has since been built at taxpayers’ expense in the courthouse where she presides at Fort Pierce, around two hours’ drive north of Miami.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.