Thursday, May 23, 2024

Tiny piece of evidence, hidden in plain sight, could turn classified-documents case upside down, with heat on full blast under Trump and Judge Aileen Cannon


A small piece of evidence, nearly hidden in a document unsealed this week, could spell big trouble for Donald Trump in his classified-documents case out of Florida, according to a report at The New Republic (TNR). Trump and Judge Aileen Cannon, who never has seen a pro-Trump document she did not like (after all, Trump appointed her, despite a thin resume that indicates she is unqualified to sit on the federal bench), are on increasingly hot seats.

Under the headline "One Incriminating Footnote in Bombshell Trump Classified Docs Report; A new report says Donald Trump was still hoarding classified documents months after the Mar-a-Lago raid—and one footnote reveals exactly what was done with them," TNR's Talia Jane writes:

A bombshell buried in a footnote midway through an 87-page opinion, freshly unsealed Tuesday, spells further trouble for Trump in the classified documents case.

The 2023 opinion from U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell reveals that an unnamed witness scanned and saved confidential documents onto a laptop owned by Save America PAC, a political-action committee formed by Trump in 2020. The detail sheds new light on the depths to which Trump consciously violated federal law.

The explosive footnote, found on page 37 of the 2023 opinion, states that in 2021:

WITNESS scanned the contents of the box … onto a laptop in her possession owned by the Save America Political Action Committee (“PAC”), a PAC formed by the former president in 2020.

On January 6, 2023—two years later—Trump’s lawyer notified the government of what this unnamed witness had done and provided a thumb drive of the files to the government. This revelation came four months after the FBI had already executed a search warrant on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate to retrieve classified materials Trump had illegally kept.

That is not the only incriminating tidbit from Judge Howell's opinion. TNR's Jane provides more details about evidence that had been stored away under seal, more or less hiding in plain sight:

The opinion by Howell, who presided over the case in 2023, also revealed that the FBI discovered more classified documents in Trump’s bedroom months after the Mar-a-Lago raid that turned up boxes of classified materials stored in his bathroom.

Unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials is a violation of federal law with penalties up to $250,000 or up to five years in prison. That an aide associated with Trump’s PAC copied classified documents is damning for Trump—who so far has avoided trial thanks to Judge Aileen Cannon granting motions to indefinitely delay the case.

Trump is charged with 40 felonies of alleged unlawful retention of classified documents and obstruction of the investigation into his super-illegal hoarder antics.


Speaking of Judge Cannon, she might soon be noticing blistering heat headed in her direction, according to a report at Newsweek. Critics are scorching her from all angles because of her deliberate handling of a hugely important matter that involves possible sharing of highly sensitive documents linked to national security. Thanks to Cannon's tendency to do YUGE favors for Trump, the case now is listed as "indefinitely postponed." From Newsweek's Kate Plummer:

Judge Aileen Cannon has received further criticism for delaying Donald Trump's classified documents trial following the release of new evidence pertaining to the case.

In June 2023, Trump was charged with retaining national-defense information, including U.S. nuclear secrets and plans for U.S. military retaliation in the event of an attack, and obstructing the government's efforts to retrieve them. Prosecutors have said he took the documents after leaving the White House in 2021 and resisted repeated requests by federal officials to return them all. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for the presidential election, has denied any wrongdoing.

On Tuesday, a new court filing by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell revealed that lawyers found four classified documents in the former president's bedroom at Mar-a-Lago, four months after the FBI raided the estate and initially discovered documents pertaining to national security.

"Notably, no excuse is provided as to how the former president could miss the classified-marked documents found in his own bedroom at Mar-a-Lago," Howell, an Obama appointee, wrote in the opinion, suggesting Trump would have known the documents were there.

Following the revelation, Cannon, the Trump appointee who is overseeing the case, was slammed by commentators for previously delaying the case. Newsweek contacted a representative for Trump by email to comment on this story.

Writing on X, formerly Twitter, Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, said: "This makes Judge Cannon's foot dragging on this case even more incomprehensible. Not like it involves serious matters, or anything."

Tristan Snell, a legal analyst and former New York assistant attorney general who helped lead the prosecution against Trump University, which was successfully sued for deceptive and aggressive marketing practices, said Trump's "handpicked judge has stopped him from being prosecuted" for having "betrayed American national security."

Russell Drew, an X user who posts about politics and has over 23,000 followers said it was "outrageous that the American people won't get to see Donald Trump on trial in the classified documents case before the election...or maybe ever."

He continued: "The idea that the Trump-appointed, highly conflicted judge, Aileen Cannon, has such power to control everything is mindboggling."

Cannon has long faced criticism and calls to recuse herself from the case for making a number of decisions that some say have favored the former president.

Earlier this month, for instance, Cannon indefinitely suspended the start of the trial while other legal disputes related to the case are being settled.

Meanwhile, Trump isn't short of legal troubles. His high-profile hush money trial is currently being heard in court and a ruling is expected as soon as next week.

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