Trump Gets Special, MAGA Justice From Judge

'You don't get special privileges because you're a fancy person.'
Former US President Donald Trump's residence in Mar-A-Lago, Palm Beach, Florida on August 9, 2022. - Former US president Donald Trump said August 8, 2022 that his Mar-A-Lago residence in Florida was being "raided" by... Former US President Donald Trump's residence in Mar-A-Lago, Palm Beach, Florida on August 9, 2022. - Former US president Donald Trump said August 8, 2022 that his Mar-A-Lago residence in Florida was being "raided" by FBI agents in what he called an act of "prosecutorial misconduct." (Photo by Giorgio Viera / AFP) (Photo by GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS

As President Donald Trump continues to moan that the Biden DOJ, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and the deep state continue to victimize him, he’s received special treatment beyond that accorded to virtually any other party to a criminal proceeding.

The opinion issued by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon for the Southern District of Florida granted him that, taking the virtually unprecedented steps of suspending the use of seized materials for the government’s investigation and instituting a special master.

Nobody else who faces the U.S. criminal justice system receives this kind of treatment.

Judge Cannon alluded repeatedly in her opinion to Trump’s status as a former president, holding at one point that it set up high stakes for the case, and suggesting that special treatment was thus unavoidable.

“As a function of Plaintiff’s former position as President of the United States, the stigma associated with the subject seizure is in a league of its own,” the ruling reads. “A future indictment, based to any degree on property that ought to be returned, would result in reputational harm of a decidedly different order of magnitude.”

Multiple legal scholars and former federal prosecutors have pointed out that both Cannon’s deferral to Trump and the blow she dealt to the investigation are contrary to the principles of equal justice before the law that undergird the American legal system.

“Donald Trump has a lot to lose, but you don’t get special privileges because you’re a fancy person,” Alan Rozenshtein, a former Obama DOJ national security official and professor at University of Minnesota Law, told TPM. “That’s the entire basis of the American legal system.”

“I don’t think it helps with people’s confidence if you have special rules for somebody,” Andrew Weissmann, a former Mueller prosecutor, told MSNBC on Tuesday. “It isn’t the case that because you’re the former president, you get more justice; you should get equal justice.”

Though Cannon’s opinion opens up entirely new frontiers in the law to give Trump deference, it also follows on much less extreme but still notable examples of forbearance from the government towards Trump in the case.

The National Archives spent the entirety of 2021 asking Trump nicely to return the records he had taken. It wasn’t until December 2021 that Trump agreed to return some records, and not until January that the initial 15 boxes made it back to government possession.

After the National Archives found classified information in the boxes and referred the matter to the FBI, NARA continued to show real forbearance: the agency issued two delays to Trump before it allowed the FBI to access the documents that were already in the government’s possession.

Now, after a search warrant was executed but before any indictment has been brought, Judge Cannon has taken the unprecedented step of suspending the use of the seized materials for the investigation.

“Donald Trump is getting something no one else ever gets in federal court, he’s getting it for no good reason, and it will not in the slightest reduce the ongoing howls that he is being persecuted, when he is being privileged,” Sam Buell, a law professor at Duke University, told the New York Times.

Cannon suggested at multiple points in the opinion, without basis, that the classified materials seized by the government might be leaked, and suggested that the probe itself may be “politicized.”

Judge Cannon also ordered that a special master be appointed to review records in the case for documents that were potentially subject to attorney-client privilege, personal, or which were covered by executive privilege.

It’s an order that’s so unusual in part because — at least for attorney-client privileged material — the DOJ already has an established practice of using filter teams to weed out material whose use could potentially compromise a future case. The inclusion of executive privilege material leads to a bizarre contradiction in terms: it’s the executive branch being potentially excluded from possessing items that have executive branch privilege.

“We’ve been putting people in jail for 30 years because of minor drug offenses,” Rozenshtein said. “And a former President of the United States who has admitted partly to the crimes underlying the search warrant gets this.”

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