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Trump Judges Eviscerate Trump's Judge, Diss His Lawyers, Sh*tcan His Special Master
Wanna see a murder? Check out this absolute smackdown in which the Eleventh Circuit does everything but call US District Judge Aileen Cannon a craven hack and a disgrace to the federal judiciary. And before you ask, no , it wasn't a panel of commies put on the bench by Barack Obama and Harry Reid. Trump's special master order got shivved by two of his own appointees, plus a guy whom he considered putting on the Supreme Court.
“This appeal requires us to consider whether the district court had jurisdiction to block the United States from using lawfully seized records in a criminal investigation,” the opinion begins. “The answer is no.”
To review, Donald Trump threw a bunch of government documents and mementos in his luggage on the way out of the White House, and stashed most of themin a closet by the pool at his garbage palace in Florida. Anyone willing to pay $200,000 can have the run of the place, but friendship with a demented antisemite gets you in for free. This situation is sub-ideal if you're going to be, say, storing stolen classified documents.
The government, which by law owns all presidential records, spent months asking nicely to get its shit back. Then the Justice Department asked again, this time with a subpoena. And yet, the former president refused to hand them over, forcing prosecutors to seek a warrant after demonstrating to a federal magistrate judge that they had probable cause to believe Trump was retaining documents, some of which were classified, at his trash castle. The warrant was executed on August 8, and the FBI found exactly what they said they would.
Three weeks later, Trump filed an inane lawsuit demanding judicial review of the items seized and the documents supporting the warrant based on a muddled theory that boils down to: 1) I used to be president; 2) Joe Biden hates me; 3) Merrick Garland is mean; 4) It's no fair to use stuff I stole as evidence against me; and 5) Did I mention I used to be president?
Literally no other person in the country gets to interrogate the prosecutors' case pre-indictment to determine if the warrant was defective. Nor do they get to demand the return of items seized pursuant to a judicially authorized warrant just because they're "personal." Try to imagine a drug dealer filing a motion that says "I know I was storing that kilo of cocaine in a crate of bananas, but those are my personal bananas, and I demand you give them back to me!" You can't, because it's ... bananas. (Sorry not sorry.)
The only way you get this kind of review is if the government showed "callous disregard" for your rights when they searched your property and took your shit. And no one here has suggested that was the case with the search of Mar-a-Lago. Nevertheless, Judge Cannon not only granted the request for a special master, but she barred the government from using the seized items as part of its criminal investigation — including the classified documents.
The DOJ filed an emergency appeal as to the classified stuff, and the Eleventh Circuit's reversal made it clear they thought Judge Cannon's justification for her own jurisdiction in the case was horseshit. The DOJ then appealed the whole kit and caboodle, and in a spectacularly disastrous hearing last week, it became very clear that the appellate panel was going to shitcan the whole order and tear Judge Cannon a new one.
But knowing it was coming did not diminish the sheer joy of the smackdown.
"We have emphasized again and again that equitable jurisdiction exists only in response to the most callous disregard of constitutional rights, and even then only if other factors make it clear that judicial oversight is absolutely necessary," the judges warn, noting that the trial court's logic, "if consistently applied—would allow any subject of a search warrant to invoke a federal court’s equitable jurisdiction."
"In most search warrants, the government seizes property that unambiguously belongs to the subject of a search," they write in response to Trump's demand to have his personal items returned. They also note that Trump's lawyer Jim Trusty rather undercuts the position that his client will suffer irreparable harm if that stuff isn't returned when he rails against the government for taking stupid crap like "golf shirts" and "pictures of Celine Dion" just because they happen to be stored next to classified documents.
Indeed, the court made no attempt to disguise its disdain for the lawyering by Team Trump, or for Judge Cannon's habit of helpfully bailing them out.
"The district court was undeterred by this lack of information," the panel notes of Trump's lawyers and their failure to argue why Trump needed the items seized. Later the appellate panel adds, "again, the district court stepped in with its own reasoning" about a similar defect in Trump's pleadings. Indeed the original filing was so defective that Judge Cannon told Trump's lawyers to go back and have a competent lawyer make this less embarrassing. Hint: Use the words equitable anomalous jurisdiction. And when they failed to do even that, she said "Good job! I think you mean 'equitable anomalous jurisdiction.' Here, let me give you everything you asked for, plus some shit you were too dumb to demand." (Your Wonkette may be paraphrasing slightly.)
Notably, the panel seemed more than a little appalled that the trial judge would treat Trump's fear of going to jail as a reason to seize jurisdiction of the warrant.
"No doubt the threat of prosecution can weigh heavily on the mind of anyone under investigation," they noted dryly. "But without diminishing the seriousness of the burden, that ordinary experience cannot support extraordinary jurisdiction."
"Only one possible justification for equitable jurisdiction remains: that Plaintiff is a former President of the United States. 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 concluded. "To create a special exception here would defy our Nation’s foundational principle that our law applies 'to all, without regard to numbers, wealth, or rank.'”
So much for Trump's DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM argument. And so much for Judge Cannon's reputation among her colleagues. The Circuit Court gave Trump a mere seven calendar days to secure a stay from the Supreme Court, before vacating Judge Cannon's special master order and instructing her to dismiss the case.
And don't spend any brain cells worrying about SCOTUS either. This case was a rancid turd from the jump, and three extremely conservative judges just flushed it. No one's fishing this thing out again.
We're done here.
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