Aileen M. Cannon, the federal judge in Florida who has been initially assigned to oversee the criminal case against former president Donald Trump over alleged obstruction and mishandling of classified documents, is a former prosecutor whose profile soared last year when she intervened in the Justice Department’s investigation of the case.

At the time, the Trump-appointed judge ruled in the former president’s favor when his legal team argued that he retained his executive privilege after leaving office, maintaining the right to shield at least some of the documents from review. She appointed a special master in the case and temporarily halted FBI access to classified documents taken in a court-approved search.

Her ruling slowed down the government’s investigation, but a conservative-leaning federal appeals court later struck down her decision.

Cannon could have a significant role in the case, including whether to set a trial date before the November 2024 election. She could also rule on motions to dismiss counts — or the entire indictment — and determine which evidence could be excluded. Those rulings are generally subject to appeal and review by higher courts.

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Ongoing investigations involving Donald Trump
Donald Trump has been charged in the classified documents case, the second time he’s been indicted since March. Get live updates.
Donald Trump is facing historic legal scrutiny for a former president, under investigation by the Justice Department, district attorneys in Manhattan and Fulton County, Ga., and a state attorney general. He denies wrongdoing. Here is a list of the key investigations and where they stand.
Mar-a-Lago classified documents investigation
FBI agents found more than 100 classified documents during a search of Trump’s residence at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., on Aug. 8 as part of a criminal probe into possible mishandling of classified information. On June 8, Trump was indicted in the case. The indictment has been unsealed — read the full text here.
Justice Department criminal probe of Jan. 6
The Justice Department is investigating the Jan. 6 riot and whether Trump or his aides may have conspired to obstruct the formal certification in Congress of the election result or committed fraud to block the peaceful transfer of power. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed veteran prosecutor Jack Smith to oversee both this and the Mar-a-Lago investigation.
Georgia election results investigation
Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) is investigating whether Trump and his allies illegally meddled in the 2020 election in Georgia. A Georgia judge on Feb. 15 released parts of a report produced by a special-purpose grand jury, and authorities who are privy to the report will decide whether to ask a new grand jury to vote on criminal charges.
Manhattan district attorney’s investigation
District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) convened a grand jury to evaluate business-related matters involving Trump, including his alleged role in hush-money payments to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign. On March 30, the grand jury voted to indict Trump, making him the first ex-president to be charged with a crime. Here’s what happens next.
Lawsuit over Trump business practices in New York
Attorney General Letitia James (D) filed a lawsuit Sept. 21 against Trump, three of his children and the Trump Organization, accusing them of flagrantly manipulating the valuations of their properties to get better terms on loans and insurance policies, and to get tax breaks. The litigation is pending.


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The conservative judge was nominated by Trump in 2020 and received some Democratic support at her hearing, when 12 Senate Democrats voted in favor of her confirmation. She was one of 14 Trump nominees confirmed after he lost the November 2020 election.

Cannon was born in Colombia in 1981 and grew up in Miami, the daughter of a Cuban immigrant mother. As an undergraduate at Duke University, she worked one summer for the Spanish-language newspaper El Nuevo Herald, writing on prenatal yoga and Flamenco.

Cannon later joined the Federalist Society, the conservative organization that played a major role in advising Trump on his judicial picks, while attending the University of Michigan Law School. She was drawn to its discussion of “the limited role of the judiciary to say what the law is — not to make the law,” she said in response to Senate questions during her confirmation hearing.

She clerked for Steven M. Colloton, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit who was on Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court picks, and spent much of her career as a litigator.

As a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in South Florida in 2013, Cannon handled drug, firearm and immigration cases.

Later, while working in the appellate division, she was assigned to defend the government’s conviction in a large-scale life insurance fraud case.

“She’s quick, talented and bright,” said Richard Klugh, the lawyer on the other side of that case representing the defendants on appeal. “There’s no getting around it. She’s very effective.”

Cannon prevailed in the case, sustaining the conviction of the Florida lawyer in the life insurance scheme that drew in thousands of investors.

During her confirmation hearing, Cannon said she considers herself an “originalist” and a “textualist,” referring to methods of legal interpretation that look to the general understanding of the Constitution at the time it was written, an approach most often associated with the late conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Cannon whether she had discussions during the nomination process about “loyalty to President Trump.”

“No,” Cannon responded in writing.

Before Cannon’s controversial ruling last year, which she called necessary to “ensure at least the appearance of fairness and integrity,” she had been on the bench for less than two years. One of her most high-profile cases involved sentencing a man from Florida who pleaded guilty to making death threats against then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

In another case last year, a judicial colleague accused Trump of judge-shopping for Cannon by filing a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and former FBI agents in the court’s Fort Pierce division, where Cannon is the only federal judge.

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History of investigations involving Donald Trump
In addition to his involvement in more than 4,000 lawsuits over the course of his half-century in real estate, entertainment and politics, Donald Trump has been the subject of investigations by federal, state and regulatory authorities in every decade of his long career.
Federal investigators accuse Trump and his father of discriminating against Black New Yorkers in renting out apartments. Case settles with no admission of guilt, but Trump has to run ads pledging not to discriminate.
Federal investigators look into whether Trump gave apartments in his Trump Tower to organized crime-connected figures to keep his project on track. Trump denies the allegation. Separately, New Jersey officials probe Trump’s ties with mob figures, then grant him a casino license.
New Jersey regulators investigate Trump’s finances and conclude he “cannot be considered financially stable,” yet extend his casino license to protect jobs at his Atlantic City hotel.
Federal securities regulators cite Trump’s casino for downplaying negative results in financial reporting.
New York state sues Trump, alleging his Trump University defrauded more than 5,000 people. Trump is found personally liable. After Trump becomes president, he is impeached — and acquitted — over allegations that he solicited foreign interference in the U.S. presidential election.
Trump is impeached — and acquitted — a second time for incitement of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. New York state sues Trump, alleging he falsely inflated assets to mislead lenders. He is also under criminal investigation for events surrounding Jan. 6 and his handling of classified documents.


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“Despite the odds, this case landed with me instead,” wrote Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton. Middlebrooks dismissed the case in September.

After a 34-year-old man threw a chair and threatened to kill a prosecutor in court last year, Cannon tacked on more than six years to his existing 17½-year sentence on gun charges.

Trump could make his initial appearance in front of Cannon on Tuesday or Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart, who signed off on the government’s request for a warrant to search Mar-a-Lago and whose name was also on the court-issued summons given to Trump’s attorneys, according to people familiar with the document.

Perry Stein, Jacqueline Alemany and Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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