Meet Aileen Cannon, the Trump-nominated judge overseeing the DOJ's classified documents case against him

Meet Aileen Cannon, the Trump-nominated judge overseeing the DOJ's classified documents case against him
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  • All eyes are on Judge Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over the first pretrial hearing Tuesday in the DOJ's prosecution of Donald Trump.

  • Cannon, a Trump nominee, baffled legal experts when she granted Trump's request for a special master to review documents the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago last year.

  • She previously ruled in a case involving Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

All eyes are on US District Judge Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over the first pretrial hearing on Tuesday in the Justice Department's prosecution of former President Donald Trump.

Trump was indicted on 37 counts last month in connection to his handling of classified documents. Tuesday's hearing will focus largely on the timeline of Trump's historic trial; the Justice Department has argued that the trial should wrap up before the end of the year, while the former president's lawyers say it shouldn't happen until after the 2024 presidential election.

The decision by Cannon, a 41-year-old Trump nominee, could have far-reaching consequences. If she grants Trump's request and he wins the 2024 election, that means Trump could have the Justice Department drop the case altogether.

The special counsel Jack Smith's indictment against Trump came after the FBI executed a search warrant at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate last August and recovered hundreds of pages of government records.

Trump challenged the search shortly after and requested that a special master be appointed to review the documents that the FBI seized. Cannon was randomly assigned to oversee the case, and she baffled legal experts when she granted the former president's request in September.

Three months later, however, she tossed out Trump's lawsuit, writing in a one-page order that she was dismissing the case because of a "lack of jurisdiction." That came after a federal appeals court overturned Cannon's initial ruling and scrapped the special master's appointment.

Legal experts across the political spectrum excoriated Cannon's September ruling.

"The opinion, I think, was wrong," Bill Barr, who was the attorney general under Trump, said on Fox News. "And I think the government should appeal it. It's deeply flawed in a number of ways."

Trump nominated Cannon in April 2020 and the Senate confirmed her by a vote of 56-21 shortly after Trump lost his reelection bid. Twelve Democrats voted to confirm her and 23 senators didn't vote.

Since the confirmation, a least one other Cannon case made national headlines. In April, Cannon oversaw a criminal case in which a Florida man threatened to behead then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

Judge Aileen Cannon gave her confirmation testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee over Zoom on July 29, 2020.
Judge Aileen Cannon gave her confirmation testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee over Zoom on July 29, 2020.Senate Judiciary Committee

Cannon is bilingual and explored journalism

Few details are available about Cannon's short career, though some details of her life were shared in a document she filled out for the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with her testimony during her confirmation hearing.

Cannon was born in Cali, Colombia, and she and her older sister were raised in Miami, Florida.

She shared from Zoom during her July 29, 2020, confirmation hearing that her mother, Mercedes Cubas, fled Cuba as a child and instilled in her "the blessing that is this country and the importance of securing of the rule of law for generations to come."

She also thanked her grandparents who taught her "always to be thankful for this country and to cherish our constitutional Democracy."

Cannon went to college at Duke University and spent a semester in Spain. She was a journalist for a summer with El Nuevo Herald, the daily Spanish-language sister newspaper to the Miami Herald. She wrote stories about yoga during pregnancy, Latina artists, and flamenco dance, according to the Senate document she filled out.

Cannon then attended and graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and during that time she joined the conservative Federalist Society — an organization six Supreme Court justices also belonged to.

Cannon wrote that she joined "because I enjoyed the diversity of legal viewpoints" and that she "found interesting the organization's discussions about the constitutional separation of powers, the rule of law, and the limited role of the judiciary to say what the law is — not to make the law."

Cannon next clerked for Judge Steven Colloton in Iowa, who was one of the judges Trump had promised to consider for a Supreme Court vacancy.

For three years Cannon worked in Washington, DC, at the corporate law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, before heading back to Florida to work as an assistant US attorney for the Southern District of Florida. There, she prosecuted cases involving narcotics, fraud, firearms, and immigration cases, according to her Senate confirmation document.

Cannon got engaged to her now-husband, Josh Lorence, during a vacation in Athens, Greece, where a giant turtle briefly interrupted Lorence's proposal, according to a feature about their wedding in The Knot.

They were married when Cannon was 28, in Miami's eclectic Coconut Grove neighborhood, where they treated their guests to wedding favors of lavender-honey soaps. The couple has two children, according to Cannon's testimony, and they live in Vero Beach, Florida.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis
Florida governor Ron DeSantis released a survey asking school board members and candidates to share their view on controversial education policies.Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Cannon's paths cross top Florida politicians

Lorence is now an executive at Bobby's Burger Palace, a chain founded by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, according to a LinkedIn profile recently removed.

He and Cannon both gave $100 to then-congressman Ron DeSantis' campaign for governor in 2018. DeSantis is up for reelection this year and is considered a top GOP candidate for the 2024 nomination for the White House, particularly if Trump doesn't run.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida reached out to Cannon in 2019 about filling a judicial vacancy, according to her nomination questionnaire. Cannon during her confirmation hearing thanked Rubio as well as fellow Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida for their "continued support."

"Judge Cannon is a great judge who I am very proud to have enthusiastically supported," Rubio told Insider through his office when asked about the connection. "She received strong bipartisan support from both my judicial advisory commission and from the US Senate. The attacks against her are just the latest example of hypocrisy from leftists and their media enablers who believe the only time it is acceptable to attack a judge is if that judge rules against what they want."

Cannon had been a lawyer for 12 years when Trump nominated her. During her confirmation hearing, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked her and other nominees whether they'd ever had discussions about loyalty with Trump, and all replied no.

In the case involving Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez, Cannon gave the man, Paul Hoeffer, an 18-month prison sentence even though prosecutors had asked for 3.5 years. His defense team asked for leniency because Hoeffer had recently received a cancer diagnosis, though Cannon's ruling was lower than minimum federal sentencing guidelines, according to the Palm Beach Post.

In April, Cannon increased a 17.5-year prison sentence by 6.5 years for a Palm Beach Gardens man who hurled a chair and threatened to kill federal prosecutor, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Cannon typically works out of her Fort Pierce, Florida, courtroom. But during the special master hearing on September 1 she took the case from Paul G. Rogers Courthouse in West Palm Beach.

An Insider reporter was present at the hearing, in which security guards told journalists they were not allowed to tweet quotes from the hearing and were not permitted to record remarks or transmit information to anyone outside the courtroom. Federal courts have varying laws about such practices — with some, such as the courtroom in Palm Beach — allowing computers, and others not.

Two CNN journalists were removed from the courtroom during the hearing in what turned out to be a false accusation of tweeting. The reporters were permitted to re-enter the room toward the end of the hearing.

Initially, Cannon said in her ruling approving the special master that she was focused on "the appearance of fairness."

The special master is supposed to be an independent arbiter focused on singling out documents that could be protected by attorney-client and executive privilege.

Read the original article on Business Insider