Judge In Trump's Documents Case Rejected Peers' Calls To Step Aside: Report

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, the Donald Trump appointee assigned to his classified documents case, rejected calls from more experienced judges to step aside from the case, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Two of Cannon’s more seasoned colleagues on the federal bench in Florida, including the chief judge in the state’s southern district, reportedly asked Cannon to reconsider taking on the job when she drew the assignment in June 2023. Trump nominated her for the lifetime appointment in May 2020, even though she had never served as a judge. Of the 224 cases she’s been assigned, only four have gone to trial, and all four concerned routine matters, taking up a total of 14 trial days, the Times reported when she was assigned to the incredibly high-profile case.

Two people familiar with the efforts to persuade Cannon to step down shared the details with the Times under the condition of anonymity.

The chief judge involved in those efforts, Cecilia Altonaga, reportedly first called Cannon to say it would be better to hand the case off to a judge in Miami, where there was already a secure facility designed to hold the highly classified documents in the case. Cannon refused Altonaga’s initial proposal, the Times reported, and taxpayers have had to pay for construction of a secure room at her courthouse in Fort Pierce.

Altonaga then reportedly placed another call to an unnamed person to raise concerns about the optics of Cannon overseeing the case. According to the Times, she pointed out Cannon’s highly scrutinized actions leading up to Trump’s indictment, which came about after the FBI served a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in 2022 to retrieve highly classified documents he’d taken from the White House and then refused to turn over.

Trump filed a lawsuit shortly after the search, asserting that the documents were his personal property. Under typical procedure, Judge Bruce Reinhart, who signed off on the FBI search, would handle the matter. But Cannon, who’s position is superior to Reinhart’s, despite his years of experience, intervened to take on the lawsuit herself.

Cannon then proceeded to bar investigators from access to the evidence in the case, shocking legal experts who viewed the decision as giving special treatment to Trump. When prosecutors filed an appeal, a three-judge panel that included two other Trump appointees reversed her order.

“It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president — but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation,” the panel wrote.

Sources who spoke to the Times did not name the other judge who encouraged Cannon to step aside.

A spokesperson for the federal court in the Southern District of Florida did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment on the report.

Cannon’s handling of Trump’s case has been closely scrutinized. She has come under fire for several unorthodox decisions viewed as favorable to Trump, including a ruling earlier this month allowing partisan representatives with no involvement in the case to argue in Trump’s defense at a hearing Friday.

She has also declined to set a date for the trial and has postponed it indefinitely, even though prosecutors and Trump’s defense team have both said they’ll be ready to start proceedings this summer. It’s now unlikely the relatively straightforward case will go to trial before the November election, in which Trump is expected to be the GOP nominee for president.