The 3 Worst Aspects Of Aileen Cannon’s Latest Shenanigan

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Donald Trump, Aileen Cannon
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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.

Come On, Aileen

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon confounded legal experts with her latest ruling, denying Donald Trump’s motion to dismiss the Mar-a-Lago indictment on a crackpot theory based on the Presidential Records Act.

In so doing, Cannon didn’t put the issue to bed, the way you would expect most judges to. Instead she very narrowly ruled against Trump in a skimpy ruling of barely three pages while leaving the door open for him to raise the issue later at trial in a way that could doom the prosecution.

Here’s what I found most concerning:

  • Cannon called the Mar-a-Lago case a “complex case of first impression.” It is neither. It is historically significant because it involves a former president. But legally, the case is not particularly remarkable. Trump’s nonsensical defenses don’t magically turn a relatively straightforward legal matter into a complex or unprecedented puzzle for her to solve. But her treating it as complex and without legal precedent provides an intellectually dishonest framework for all kinds of potential mischief that goes well beyond this one argument over the Presidential Records Act. Cannon can mess this case up in dozens of different ways with that kind of justification.
  • Cannon was defensive. It’s never good when a judge is in a defensive crouch over their judicial skills, the law, or their handling of a case. Cannon’s terse and lightly reasoned ruling came one day after Special Counsel Jack Smith raked her over the coals about her handling of Trump’s attempted use of the Presidential Records Act as a defense. In her ruling, she lashed back at him, mischaracterizing his position on the issue and then deriding it as “unprecedented and unjust.”
  • Cannon didn’t bury Trump’s Presidential Records Act argument for good. Trump’s argument is the kind we often see judges dispense with categorically before trial in order to streamline arguments, eliminate distractions, and keep the case focused and on track. Cannon was not decisive here, giving Trump the chance to raise the PRA defense later, perhaps after a jury has been seated and jeopardy has attached, meaning Smith would have no avenue for appeal. Despite all the commentary you may be seeing, there is no obvious or surefire way for Smith to get around her on this. Risks abound, as does uncertainty.

After every Aileen Cannon post I write, I get lots of questions about why Jack Smith isn’t moving to have her recused, taking her up on appeal already, or doing something else to dislodge her. I can assure you this is highly unusual conduct by a judge in a criminal case, and there are no easy answers here, either legally or practically.

Trump Loses Bid To Dismiss Georgia RICO Case

State Judge Scott McAfee denied Donald Trump’s motion to dismiss his Georgia indictment on spurious First Amendment grounds.

I’m No Saul Goodman!

Despite raising the “I’m no Saul Goodman!” defense, Trump DOJ official Jeff Clark moved one step closer to being disbarred in DC for his participation in the scheme to overturn the 2020 election.

More Please

Arizona Republican Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs have each been subpoenaed in the fake electors criminal probe being conducted by Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, Politico reports.

The Chair Recognizes The Gentleman From Conspiracyland

In a piece taking a close look at the wild Jan. 6 conspiracies being promoted by Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA), the NYT captures the current moment: “[Mo]re than three years after the attack, right-wing Republicans at every level continue to spread falsehoods about what happened on Jan. 6 and are now seeking to use those lies as a rallying cry to denounce the government, promote Mr. Trump’s candidacy and rile up his supporters.”

Quote Of The Week

January 6 must not become a precedent for further violence against political opponents or governmental institutions. This is not normal. This cannot become normal. We as a community, we as a society, we as a country cannot condone the normalization of the January 6 Capitol riot.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Washington, D.C., an 80-year-old Reagan-appointee who is taking the unusual step of mailing his sentencing statement for a Jan. 6 rioter to nearly two dozen of the defendant’s supporters.

About That Trump Appeal Bond …

Trump’s $175 million appeal bond in the New York civil fraud case may not be sufficient under state law, and Attorney General Letitia James is asking questions.

You Don’t Always Get To Pick Your Battles Or Your Allies

The biggest mind-fuck of the last quarter century in American politics is how the Republican Party’s descent into Trumpian madness has created the unlikeliest of allies in the fight to save democracy:

The Terrible Smearing Of Adeel Abdullah Mangi

Lydia Polgreen: Three Democratic Senators Are Stuck Indulging an Outdated Fantasy

An Important Data Point

The Alabama hospital at the center of the IVF legal battle there will discontinue providing IVF services at the end of this year, which at least partly answers a question floating around for the past few weeks: Was the law passed by Alabama’s legislature to protect IVF from the state Supreme Court decision that frozen embryos are legally considered children sufficient to undo the damage wrought by that ruling?

The Mobile hospital discontinuing IVF attributed the decision to “pending litigation and the lack of clarity of the recently passed I.V.F. legislation in the state of Alabama.”

2024 Ephemera

  • Aaron Blake: Why Trump wants to game Nebraska’s electoral vote, mapped
  • Politico: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. disavows a fundraising email describing Jan. 6 rioters as “activists.”
  • WSJ: No Labels abandons its effort to field a third-party candidate for president.

Biden Calls For ‘Immediate Ceasefire’ In Gaza

TPM’s Josh Marshall: “The killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers has over the last two days triggered a wholesale shift across the U.S. political spectrum.”

The Bulwark Of Democracy

Heather Cox Richardson on the 75th anniversary of NATO.

It’s ‘Country’ If I Say It Is

Could anything be in Tressie McMillan Cottom’s wheelhouse more than Beyoncé’s new country music album?

“Big Country — the Nashville-controlled, pop-folk music that commodifies rural American fantasies — is the cultural arm of white grievance politics,” she writes in an extended essay on the musical genre, race and gender, and history and power.

Read it, then check out her Spotify playlist, which covers a lot of very good ground. I’ve been mainlining for a while her combo of classic hits and new stuff, or at least new-to-me stuff. Her playful (yet not) tagline for it is: “Good music is in the liminal spaces between genres. It’s ‘country’ if I say it is. Emphasis on songwriting.”

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