Appointed by Donald Trump, Eileen Cannon will now have to judge him. Having been drawn by lot to oversee the federal trial of the former president, the judge will have significant influence over the procedure, which is not for everyone.
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“Judging someone who gave you your job is going to be hard for everyone,” said Wendy Schiller, a professor of public policy at Brown University.
And when the accused continues to cry by presenting himself as a victim of “persecution”, “this indicates to the judge that he is under surveillance,” adds the expert during a conversation with AFP.
Will Eileen Cannon be able to resist these pressures? Those who want to see Donald Trump indicted for his careless handling of White House secrets are skeptical.
Firstly, she is inexperienced as a judge.
The Republican billionaire gave her a job for life as a federal judge before her defeat in the November 2020 presidential election. She was only 38 years old at the time, including three years in a law firm and seven in federal prosecutor’s offices in Florida.
During her time in office, she oversaw only four criminal trials, which never lasted more than three days, according to Politico.
Then, because she’s a “very conservative judge,” notes Thomas Holbrook, a professor of political science at Wisconsin.
The daughter of a Cuban refugee, she is a senior member of the Federal Assembly, a highly influential organization in legal circles that has the ear of elected Republicans and advocates a literal reading of the Constitution.
But above all because she has already shown great respect for Donald Trump.
After his luxury club, Mar-a-Lago, was searched by the FBI in August 2022, the septuagenarian took legal action to prevent plaintiffs from using the seized documents. Judge Cannon had already inherited the case and partly agreed with him, citing the “extraordinary circumstances” of his “former office as President of the United States.”
Then three justices in her court disavowed her in an unusually critical tone: “While it is indeed unusual to obtain a search warrant for the home of a former president, it should in no way influence our legal analysis,” they wrote.
All this would not matter if the judge had only a ceremonial role, but this is far from the case.
“Even in routine cases, judges have an important and sometimes decisive influence on the proceedings,” notes Daniel Richman, a professor of law at Columbia University.
In particular, Eileen Cannon will decide which material items may be presented to the jury. In this file, you might be tempted to immediately exclude incriminating notes written by Donald Trump’s attorney, in the name of professional secrecy.
It will also set the timeline for preliminary hearings and the trial, which could set him back well after the November 2024 presidential election, in which Donald Trump is running. According to Daniel Richman, “even an experienced judge would have a hard time getting him to stand before the ballot.”
Finally, you will oversee the selection of jurors, who will have to deliver a unanimous verdict.
For all these reasons, several voices asked him to recuse himself. “His impartiality can be questioned,” former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissman, who investigated suspected collusion between Donald Trump and Moscow in 2016, said on MSNBC.
For now, it appears the judge wants to keep the file, as she has already done some formalities.
Whatever her behavior, she would eventually be vilified, notes Thomas Holbrooke.
“Once she makes a decision against the former president, it will no longer matter what he calls her and she will be seen as a traitor” by Republican supporters, he said. Conversely, if she decides in favor of Trump, it will fuel the idea that the justice system is corrupt. »