IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Judge Aileen Cannon is back in play in Trump’s documents case

Remember the whole special master boondoggle? Yep, the judge from that.


After a surprise geographical shift to Florida in Donald Trump’s documents case, one of the latest dramatic developments is an old character from the saga making a fresh appearance: Aileen Cannon.

If Cannon sounds familiar, it’s because she’s the Trump-appointed judge who effectively tried to help the former president gum up the works in the Justice Department’s initial investigation. NBC News confirmed Friday that she has been assigned to initially oversee the DOJ’s case against Trump.

Cannon isn’t just any Trump appointee. Recall, she was reversed twice by the conservative 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, after she appointed a special master to review the documents seized pursuant to a search warrant last summer at Mar-a-Lago. Frankly, the 11th Circuit smacked Cannon down.

“This appeal requires us to consider whether the district court had jurisdiction to block the United States from using lawfully seized records in a criminal investigation,” the appeals court explained in December, before concluding simply: “The answer is no.” The 11th Circuit ruled that Cannon improperly exercised jurisdiction and that “dismissal of the entire proceeding is required.”

So, the Trump-appointed judge who stretched the law for Trump before he was charged — only to be smacked down by a conservative appeals court — could be back in play now that the former president has been charged. It’s unclear at the moment how the judicial assignment took place — Was it random? Was it because of her prior involvement? — or what happens next. But, safe to say, all eyes will be on any judge handling the matter, and the same will doubly be true for a judge with prior dubious involvement.

But would Cannon necessarily stay on the case? No. MSNBC legal analyst Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama (which is in the 11th Circuit), noted the possibility of another judge replacing Cannon.

We’ll see. But if Cannon stays on, she’ll have vast discretion over the day-to-day management of the case — including scheduling, which could be crucial against the backdrop of the ticking clock ahead of the 2024 election — as well as a host of critical evidentiary calls during the trial itself, if there is one.

And unlike issues such as the special master debacle, prosecutors can’t appeal an acquittal.