Donald Trump‘s attempt to make his classified-documents scandal go away suffered a series of setbacks this month when the special master his lawyers begged to have ordered him to put up or shut up re: his baseless claims that (1) he declassified the the FBI recovered from Mar-a-Lago in August and (2) the feds planted evidence when they raided the Palm Beach club. But as they say in the legal profession, “It’s only a setback if you don’t have a federal judge willing to destroy her reputation in service to you”!
On Thursday, US district judge Aileen Cannon ruled that the ex-president, to whom she owes her lifetime appointment on the bench, does not have to comply with an order from special master Raymond Dearie to submit a sworn affidavit detailing exactly what he believes the FBI planted when it searched his home. In overruling Dearie—who Cannon installed at Trump’s specific request—the federal judge suggested that the special master had overstepped in her request, and that her initial directive “did not contemplate that obligation.” In her decision, Cannon wrote: “There shall be no separate requirement on Plaintiff at this stage, prior to the review of any of the Seized Materials, to lodge ex ante final objections to the accuracy of Defendant’s Inventory, its descriptions, or its contents . The Court’ Appointment Order did not contemplate that obligation.”
Of course, as legal experts have pointed out, the stated rationale for reversing Dearie’s call is just plain wrong, and, in fact, Cannon had tasked him with determining exactly what was—and wasn’t—found at Mar-a-Lago.
Cannon’s Thursday ruling is significant because while Trump and his allies have spent the weeks following the Mar-a-Lago raid spreading baseless lies that the feds planted evidence, Dearie’s order would have Trump’s lawyers, as The New York Times notes, “either disavow those claims or repeat them in court, where they could face professional consequences for lying.” Now, the ex-president can simply carry on repeating them with impunity.
Also on Thursday, Cannon pushed back the October deadline Dearie set to complete his review to December 16, after Trump’s attorneys complained. Obviously, having the process dragged out further is to the ex-president’s benefit.
As they did when Cannon temporarily blocked the Justice Department from continuing to use the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago in their criminal investigation, legal experts have declared the judge’s actions shady as f–k. “In the tank for Trump hardly describes it,” constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe tweeted. Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann aloud if Trump had some kind of dirt on Cannon would cause her to continually rule in his favor. “Something is SO off in her decisions (and the court of appeals said as much) that it is impossible not to ask this question in all seriousness,” he tweeted, adding that “she is completely unfit to serve on the bench.”
While the special treatment that Trump has received from Cannon is obviously beyond absurd, the silver lining is that her worst call to date, the one blocking the Justice Department from using the classified documents in their criminal investigation, was overturned last week by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.