Trump is accidentally exposing Judge Cannon’s shady pro-MAGA game

Trump is accidentally exposing Judge Cannon’s shady pro-MAGA game

Greg Sargent writes:

When Judge Aileen Cannon handed down her latest ruling in the prosecution of Donald Trump for stealing classified documents, many legal observers immediately understood the shady gamesmanship lurking behind it. She did, technically, rule against Trump by refusing to dismiss the case—but actually made it easier for herself to kill the case later, or to steer a jury toward an acquittal.

Trump’s lawyers had argued that the Presidential Records Act, which was passed in the wake of the Watergate scandal, allowed him to reclassify national security documents as his personal property. That’s a grotesque misreading of the law’s history and intent, and Cannon appeared to agree, declaring that the PRA “does not provide a pre-trial basis to dismiss” the case. The media reported this as a partial “win” for special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution team.

But as constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe put it, this was a “pretend” ruling against Trump that ended up “reserving” Cannon’s ability to decide the case for Trump in a way that cannot be appealed. In short, Cannon seems to recognize that as she moves toward that endgame, it’s essential to maintain plausible deniability throughout.

“Judge Cannon is being canny in her Trump-protective approach,” Lee Kovarsky, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told me.

Trump doesn’t seem to have noticed the “canny” part. He doesn’t bother hiding his expectation that Cannon—who was appointed to the federal bench by Trump in 2020—will put a heavy thumb on the scale in his favor. That complicates Cannon’s efforts to maintain that objective legal aura she’s striving for.

Which points to a larger pattern: On numerous fronts, Trump’s allies—overt and tacit alike—seek to run interference for his corruption and likely criminality in ways that allow them to maintain a veneer of respect for the rule of law. But Trump keeps demanding that they openly pervert the rule of law on his behalf, not least because a central feature of the MAGA movement is explicit contempt for the very idea that the law should apply to him and his supporters at all. [Continue reading…]

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