Sun | May 19, 2024

Trump-appointed judge who issued rulings favourable to him assigned to oversee criminal case

Published:Friday | June 9, 2023 | 11:54 AM
Former President Donald Trump listens as he speaks with reporters while in flight on his plane after a campaign rally at Waco Regional Airport, in Waco, Texas, March 25, 2023, while en route to West Palm Beach, Florida. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

MIAMI (AP) — Donald Trump 's historic criminal case on felony charges of mishandling classified documents is set to unfold in Florida and will at least initially be overseen by a federal judge who issued rulings favourable to him last year and expressed repeated scepticism of Justice Department positions.

The assignment of US District Judge Aileen Cannon, confirmed Friday by a person familiar with the development, is a rare bit of positive news for Trump in the face of an indictment with several criminal charges that carries the prospect of a years-long prison sentence.

Cannon was broadly criticised last year for granting the Trump legal team's request for a special master to conduct an independent review of the hundreds of classified documents seized from his Florida property last year. The move, which temporarily halted core aspects of the Justice Department's investigative work, was overturned months later by a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court.

Meanwhile Friday, two of Trump's lawyers — James Trusty and John Rowley — who had handled the documents probe for months, said they had resigned their roles and would no longer be representing him. Trump, in his own post, said that the case going forward will be handled by Todd Blanche, a lawyer representing him in a separate prosecution in New York, and other yet-to-be-named attorneys.

The Justice Department was expected before Tuesday to make public an indictment ahead of a historic court appearance next week in the midst of a 2024 presidential campaign punctuated by criminal prosecutions in multiple states.

Trump's indictment carries unmistakably grave legal consequences, including the possibility of prison if he's convicted.

But it also has enormous political implications, potentially upending a Republican presidential primary that Trump had been dominating and testing anew the willingness of GOP voters and party leaders to stick with a now twice-indicted candidate who could face still more charges.

And it sets the stage for a sensational trial centred on claims that a man once entrusted to safeguard the nation's most closely-guarded secrets willfully, and illegally, hoarded sensitive national security information after leaving office.

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