Aileen Cannon Refused To Step Aside Even After Other Judges Urged Her To Do So

INSIDE: Steve Bannon ... Robert Winnett ... Mr. October
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.

Weird Day In Mar-A-Lago Case

An unusual all-day hearing is scheduled today down in Florida in the Mar-a-Lago case on whether Jack Smith was lawfully appointed as special counsel. That’s weird enough on its own (more on that in a moment), but it comes a day after the NYT published an exceedingly strange article revealing that two federal judges in the Southern District of Florida, including Chief Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga, had previously approached U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon about relinquishing the case when it was first assigned to her. She refused.

Don’t get me wrong: The NYT article is very good. What’s strange about it is that anyone involved would have spilled the tea to anyone else and that it eventually made its way, one way or another, into print. Here’s how the article obliquely describes that pathway:

… word of the early efforts by her colleagues on the bench to persuade her to step aside — and the significance of her decision not to do so — has spread among other federal judges and the people who know them. …

The two people who discussed the efforts to persuade her to hand off the case spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. Each had been told about it by different federal judges in the Southern District of Florida, including Judge Altonaga.

Deviating from the random assignment of cases is an extremely sensitive matter under any circumstance, even more so in a case involving the former president and national security secrets. But it’s even more sensitive than normal given the circumstances, or shall we say, reasons the judges sought to intervene here.

Implicit in the story is that Cannon’s inexperience was a factor. According to the NYT account, the other unnamed judge first reached out urging her to let a judge in Miami take the case because the bigger courthouse was better equipped to handle it. When she declined, the chief judge reached out on her own. That’s where it gets spicy:

The chief judge — an appointee of former President George W. Bush — is said to have made a more pointed argument: It would be bad optics for Judge Cannon to oversee the trial because of what had happened during the criminal investigation that led to Mr. Trump’s indictment on charges of illegally retaining national security documents after leaving office and obstructing government efforts to retrieve them.

To sharpen the point, Cannon’s bungling of the civil case Trump brought to try to thwart the criminal investigation was grounds in the chief judge’s mind for Cannon to relinquish the case, especially after she was slapped around by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals for how she mishandled the case. Stunning news, really.

The only caution I would add here is that the account of what two judges said to Cannon comes down to one unidentified source.

The Day Ahead In The MAL Case

Devoting a day+ to the argument over whether Jack Smith is legally appointed is bizarre in its own right given that this question has been raised and dispensed within other courts before now. It’s another way in which Cannon is delaying the case, in addition to failing to set a trial date.

We won’t have live coverage from Florida today because of the court restrictions on press coverage. In the meantime, Roger Parloff posted a few days ago a good rundown on the legal arguments in play today, in case you missed it.

Bannon Loses Again

Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon lost his emergency effort to get the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to delay his prison sentence, which is set to begin July 1. Next stop: Supreme Court.

Can’t Believe We’re Even Talking About This Possibility

An effort to give Jan. 6 rioters a prominent role at the Republican National Convention doesn’t seem to be going anywhere … at least not yet.

On the other hand, when a Jan. 6 defendant is your nominee, who needs to use rioters as props. It speaks for itself.

2024 Ephemera

Another Shakeup At The WaPo

The British journalist slated to take over as the top editor at the WaPo after the November election is not going to make the jump after all. Weirdly, the news that Robert Winnett will remain at the Daily Telegraph was reported by the WaPo based on an internal Daily Telegraph memo.

Global Fossil Fuel Use Reached Record High In 2023

The growth in renewables is not outpacing the growth in overall energy demand.

My Washingtonian Problem

Last month I mentioned my EV in a Morning Memo item on America’s lagging public charging infrastructure. Two weeks later, it was totaled while parked on the street here in DC. So you’re probably not going to get as much EV news in Morning Memo for a while (since I drove so seldom in my very walkable neighborhood, I’m going to try the carless urban lifestyle for a while and see how it goes, which might yield its own posts).

It was how I found out about the collision that still has me shaking my head. I had finished up my TPM work day and was getting ready to go work out when I happened to check Instagram. The top post was from a popular DC account that offers a buzzy and usually funny snapshot of urban life here … pause … wait, that’s MY car.

By the time I learned of it … on Instagram four hours later … the scene of the accident had been cleared. But piecing it together from the police report and the damage on my vehicle, it appears the flipped SUV used the left front tire of my parked Kia like a ramp, launching it into the air. How the Benz was going that fast in a one-block stretch between two stop signs remains a mystery. The impact drove my car into the curb and into the parked car behind it, neatly damaging all four sides of a previously pristine car with under 20,000 miles on it. Totaled. Sigh.

Speaking Of Wrecks …

NYT: Ancient Shipwreck Preserves a Deep Bronze Age Time Capsule

Preach, Reggie

I try not to inflict sports on you too often, but there’s a lot here for the non-sports fan, so stick with me.

This is a season of reconciliation and recognition in Major League Baseball. For the first time, MLB officially recognized Negro League stats and merged them with its own, elevating decades of segregated baseball to the highest professional tier.

Last night, in that same spirt, a major league game between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants was played at Birmingham, Alabama’s Rickwood Field, which was built in 1910, making it the oldest professional baseball park in America. For those keeping track, that’s two years older than Boston’s Fenway Park.

Rickwood was for a time the home field of the Negro League’s Black Barons, who shared the stadium with the minor league white team, known simply as the Barons. The radio announcer for the white Barons back in the 1930s was Bull Connor. Yes, that Bull Connor. In another historical irony, all-time great Willie Mays played for the Black Barons at Rickwood while he was still in high school, before being signed by the New York Giants in 1950. Mays died two days before the game, which became part a commemoration of Negro League players and part memorial for Mays.

Into this feel-good story stepped Reggie Jackson, the famous slugger from my childhood. Mr. October was, by his own admission, hot-headed, tempestuous, quick to anger, and ready to brawl as a player. Often an asshole, frankly. At 78, he’s mellowed a bit but not entirely. He was on the Fox Sports pregame broadcast and was asked what it was like to return to Birmingham, where he was a minor leaguer some 20 years after Mays. Give this a watch (YouTube version):

Now keep in mind this is Fox Sports, which is more aggressive in wrapping its game broadcasts in ostentatious patriotism — bunting, anthems, flyovers, and troops as visual props — than the other networks, which is saying a lot. So credit the broadcast crew for sticking with this extended answer from Jackson. (For what it’s worth, there are other versions online which don’t bleep the N-word, and Jackson’s words land even harder.)

Maybe it takes a blunt, not-very-subtle, sometimes-asshole like Jackson to cut through the feel-goodism of our “post-racial” yearnings. But I wonder if there’s something else at play, too. Jackson, of mixed Black and Hispanic heritage, wasn’t from the South. He grew up in Pennsylvania. What he encountered in Alabama was different and new to him. Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in baseball, was born in Georgia but he grew up in California. We know they both encountered racism outside the South; it’d be ridiculous to think otherwise. But the South was different.

A few years ago, I had the great pleasure of visiting with a friend of a friend who was a Black major leaguer back in the 1960s, and had spent part of the 1950s and 1960s in the minor leagues, both in the South and other areas of the country. As I snuck glances at his enormous hands, as if his arms had sprouted catchers mitts at their tips, he spoke eloquently but matter of factly about segregation and racism during his minor league days. But here’s the thing: He was from the South. The racism was deeply familiar to him, so in a way he was more struck by the less severe treatment he received outside of the South than what he had grown up with and was accustomed to back home.

It’s not either/or. Jackson’s personality is part of it, where he grew up was part it, and there are other factors at play, too. It was hard for Jackson to return almost 60 years later, despite all of his success and accolades. And he gave voice to it, an aggrieved voice. Not papering it over with a Chamber of Commerce sheen. Respect.

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Notable Replies

  1. Looks like another day of comment access confusion…

  2. Avatar for Gret Gret says:

    Thanks for the link.

  3. Avatar for pshah pshah says:

    Not that it’ll change anything in the short term, but I’m glad the media is building a narrative regarding Cannon as well as Alito and Thomas. It’s a necessary, though ugly, step on the way to reform. And what we’re learning is ugly indeed.

  4. here’s my backdoor access hack, after having normal comment access Wednesday and then seeing blank boxes again yesterday & today. FWIW logging out/logging back in did not help.

    1. log in to TPM
    2. expand the menu under your avatar at the top right of the page
    3. click the “Hive” link
    4. search for “TPM Article Topics”
    5. click on the “TPM Article Topics” tag in the results
    6. click to the comments for the article you want from the list
  5. Thanks, so complicated, hopefully it will be resolved soon

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