Judge Aileen Cannon channels her inner Kavanaugh

Remember when John Roberts chastised then-President Donald Trump for calling a federal lawyer “Judge Obama”? The Chief Justice said, “We don’t have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.”

It wasn’t characteristic of Roberts to be so outspoken, but the right thing to say at the time, in 2018. His remarks now sound awfully quaint.

If there is any doubt, there are Trump judges and everyone, Aileen Cannon should settle it.

Earlier this month, Judge Cannon, who was nominated by the former president to a federal district court seat in the Southern District of Florida, granted Trump’s request for a special master to review government records seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Although this decision was roundly criticized, it has since doubled down, denying the Justice Department’s request to exempt 103 classified documents from the special master’s review in order to continue its criminal investigation.

There are many reasons to be alarmed by Cannon’s decision – an extreme deference to Trump juxtaposed with a dismissive attitude towards the government’s concerns over classified information – but what immediately jumped out at me was its sheer clumsiness.

“Plaintiff has had no significant ability to materialize its position regarding the seized materials,” she wrote, siding with Trump. An eighth-grade English teacher could have a field day with that one sentence.

Overall, her decision was so poorly argued, so inelegant in the extreme, that it borders on garishness – as if Cannon wanted to show just how far she can go off the rails.

“It’s hard to write clearly if the reasoning is muddled,” said Stephen Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University who currently serves as special counsel in cases involving Iraq and Iran. Cannon’s appointment of a special master is “either redundant or meaningless,” he added.

“If I am in a SCIF [sensitive compartmented information facility]- and I’ve been there several times – and I see a document that has classified marks, I have to assume it’s classified.

“The opinion is legally inconsistent,” said Peter Shane, fellow in residence at NYU Law School and author of Democracy’s Chief Executive. “As someone who studies executive power, I think she’s either oblivious to or indifferent to the legal framework surrounding executive privilege.”

“Deeply Imperfect”

Contrary to critics who suggest she’s no match for the job of a federal judge, I think Cannon knows exactly what she’s doing. The only question is whether his bet will pay off.

Before Cannon became a pig for Trump, did anyone even know who she was? Confirmed in November 2020 after Trump lost in the election, she was not a controversial candidate. Twelve Democratic senators even voted for her.

She had the credentials that made her an acceptable, if undistinguished, choice for the federal bench.

A 2007 graduate with honors from the University of Michigan Law School and a member of the Federalist Society (naturally), she worked for Federal Court of Appeals Judge Steven Colloton, worked three years at Gibson’s office , Dunn & Crutcher in Washington, then joined the US Attorney’s office in South Florida.

Although Cannon has the right notches on her belt, there is no indication that she was a star in any of these ventures.

But the obscure Cannon is no more. Since making her decision, she has been in the spotlight, facing an onslaught of criticism from all quarters.

On Fox News, former Attorney General Bill Barr called the decision “wrong” and “deeply flawed in several respects.” He also told The New York Times exactly how he felt about the appointment of a special master: “I think it’s crap.”

Even ultra-conservative scholar John Yoo, author of the “torture memos” that justified harsh interrogation techniques during the presidency of George W. Bush, seems perplexed by Cannon’s reasoning.

“It’s not about whether Trump broke the law. He did,” Yoo said in an interview at the National Conference on Conservatism. “It’s not about whether the government had legal grounds for the search warrant. It does. The question really is whether he could be charged.

But the more Cannon is attacked for siding with the former president, the more her stock will grow with Trump — and that could be her plan.

Like Brett Kavanaugh who raged in front of the cameras during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings amid speculation the former president could withdraw his nomination after Christine Blasey’s sexual assault charges. Ford, Cannon struts for her man Trump.

Familiar playbook

Now it’s a familiar playbook. If you want to soar in Trumpland, you have to play it to the end. What better way for an ambitious young justice, perhaps with Supreme Court aspirations, to get a head start?

And whether or not Trump returns to power, the 41-year-old Colombian-born jurist has carved out a role for herself as a Trumpian conservative.

For now, all eyes are on Special Master Raymond Dearie, a judge for the Eastern District of New York. “I think he will finish the job by the end of October,” Salzburg said. “It is not up to him to determine whether a document should be classified. I mean it when I say it should be a pretty easy job.

Indeed, Dearie seems determined to act quickly, and Trump lawyers balk. Already they are protesting Dearie’s proposal that the two sides finish reviewing the documents by Oct. 7.

“We respectfully suggest that all timelines may be extended to allow for a more realistic and comprehensive assessment of the areas of disagreement,” Trump’s attorneys responded to the special master.

They are also protesting Dearie’s request to submit details about the declassification of the records, arguing that it will compromise their client’s defense.

During his first hearing on the matter on Tuesday, Dearie expressed skepticism about some of Team Trump’s arguments.

So what if Dearie, who was nominated by the Trump team, rejects the former president’s arguments? Rest assured, Cannon has thought of that. She wrote in her decision: “The Court reserves the right to withdraw the Special Master.

Moreover, she is not obliged to follow his decision. “She may disagree with the special master, but I don’t think she will,” Salzburg said.

Shane added that it would be unseemly for Cannon to fire Dearie or disregard her decision, as “Dearie has more credibility – more boats – than her”.

This places a lot of hope that credibility still matters when it comes to impressing the King of Mar-a-Lago.

About Charles D. Goolsby

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