We’ve already come to understand that former President Donald Trump is above the law.
We tell ourselves that under the justice system of the United States no one is above that law.
But … he is.
So far, anyway.
We know that if anyone but Trump had walked off with more than 11,000 government records, including some labeled classified/TS/SCI” which means “top secret/sensitive compartmented information,” which refers to something so sensitive it is only supposed to be reviewed in a secure government facility, that person would be custody.
We know that no one – not law enforcement, not the courts, not the general public – would fall for any attempt to blame the judge who authorized the search that found the documents, or blame the FBI, or blame the attorney general, or say the documents were planted, then say they were declassified, then say the information was privileged … if it wasn’t Donald Trump.
Special master = special privilege for Trump
Now, we have further proof of just how above the law Trump is by way of Judge Aileen M. Cannon of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
On Monday, Judge Cannon not only appointed a special master to review the seized classified materials Trump has been storing in his Mar-a-Lago estate, but she barred the Justice Department from using the materials for any “investigative purpose” related to the investigation of Trump until the special master is finished with them.
Which could take … who knows?
In essence, it is a get-out-of-jail free card.
Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., a Harvard Law School professor, told The New York Times that Cannon’s reasoning is “thin at best” and added, “I find that deeply problematic. This court is giving special considerations to the former president that ordinary, everyday citizens do not receive.”
Why would a judge do such a thing?
Well, it very well could be that Cannon issued her ruling based on a thorough reading precedent, a complete understanding of the law and sound legal reasoning.
Or … because Cannon was appointed by Trump.
Should Cannon have recused herself?
How much would every single person being investigated for possible criminal activity LOVE to be able to appoint the judge overseeing the case?
And being a federal judge isn’t just any job. It is a lifetime appointment under Article III of the U.S. Constitution.
Should a judge recently appointed to the federal bench recuse herself from a case involving the man who got her the gig?
That, it seems, is her choice. Federal law says judges should recuse themselves if they have a financial interest in how the case turns or if there is a possibility the judge’s decision will be biased.
Samuel W. Buell, a Duke University law professor, told the Times, “To any lawyer with serious federal criminal court experience who is being honest, this ruling is laughably bad, and the written justification is even flimsier. Donald Trump is getting something no one else ever gets in federal court, he’s getting it for no good reason, and it will not in the slightest reduce getting it for no good reason, and it will not in the slightest reduce the ongoing howls that he is being persecuted, when he is being privileged.”
It’s not the law, it’s the judge
During his campaign for president Trump said, “We’re going to have great judges, conservative, all picked by the Federalist Society.”
Judge Cannon, it turns out, was a member of the right-wing Federalist Society. And she owes her lifetime job to Trump. And when afforded the opportunity to stonewall a criminal investigation into you-know-who, she did it.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr, appointed to the job by Trump, was asked what he thought of the argument Trump’s lawyers made for appointing a special master.
He said, “I think it’s a crock of s—.”
That’s probably true. But as a number of commentators have pointed out in recent days, Roy Cohn, the sleazy, pitbull investigator for Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the communist witch hunting days of the 1950s, used to say, “Don’t tell me what the law is, tell me who the judge is.”
Cannon’s decision can be appealed.
If that happens, the case would go to the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. That court has 11 active judges.
Trump appointed six of them.
Reach Montini at [email protected].
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Donald Trump is above the law. His own judge offers more proof