On Saturday, January 13, 2024, Newsweek reported that Florida Judge Aileen Cannon, who was nominated to the federal bench by former President Donald Trump, rejected a request from Special Counsel Jack Smith regarding Trump’s defense in the ongoing classified documents case. Judge Cannon’s decision is facing criticism that it could further delay the start of Trump’s trial.
Cannon denied Smith’s motion that aimed to compel Trump to disclose whether he intends to use an “advice of counsel” defense ahead of the May 20 trial. By rejecting this request, critics argue Cannon is slowing the case’s progression toward its scheduled trial date. Some legal experts, like former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance, believe this helps Trump’s desire to kick proceedings past the November 2024 election.
This is not the first time Judge Cannon has made a ruling in this case that appears favorable to Trump and faces accusations of bias. She was already facing calls for recusal due to prior decisions, including one that said Trump would not need to testify regarding his evidence-planting claim when the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago in August 2022. Cannon also denied a request that Trump clarify which seized documents he argues were declassified.
Others pointed out that a more experienced judge would have had this case closer to trial by now. Legal Twitter personality “Scary Lawyer Guy” noted Cannon’s slow walking of the case has allowed Trump to benefit from delay more than if another judge was overseeing.
The classified documents trial is currently scheduled for May, but a scheduling conference on March 1 could alter that date. With investigations also ongoing into Trump’s conduct surrounding the 2020 election, critics argue every delay increases the chances he avoids prosecution by winning in 2024 or pardoning himself. Judge Cannon’s latest rejection of the government’s routine request regarding Trump’s defense strategy faces renewed criticism that her handling of this high-profile case is protecting the former president from facing timely accountability.