Cannon came under nationwide scrutiny last year at the start of the investigation into Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents. The Trump-appointed judge cut him and his legal team multiple breaks, including assigning a special master to the lawsuit, intervening in the special master’s work, and generally stalling the case. The Eleventh Circuit court ultimately ruled she had no legal basis for her actions and threw her decision out entirely.
There are multiple ways that Cannon can sink the Justice Department’s case, and she has already shown herself willing to take such steps. For starters, she sets the date of the trial, so she can delay when it actually starts, perhaps till after the 2024 election. She can also take steps to ensure the jury is filled with Trump supporters.
Cannon could rule that attorney-client privilege was improperly breached, which would mean some crucial evidence would have to be tossed. (Many of the most damning things in the indictment came from notes from Trump’s lawyer.) She could also disqualify the prosecution’s witnesses or evidence and humor the defense’s objections or requests.
She can determine that there’s no reason for a jury to find Trump guilty and rule for an acquittal, or she can even declare a mistrial altogether. None of her decisions can be appealed until after the trial concludes, so it could be a long time before the Justice Department is able to follow up.
Cannon is unlikely to recuse herself, but special counsel Jack Smith can request a different judge. Legal precedent allows such a request if it appears the presiding judge “would have difficulty putting his previous views and findings aside.” Cannon would certainly qualify.
But that could also draw out proceedings. And in the meantime, Trump will still be able to hit the campaign trail and falsely claim that he is being unfairly targeted. So in a way, Cannon is already helping him.