Trumpite Florida Judge Cannon indefinitely postpones stolen documents trial
Former President Donald Trump is currently on trial in New York with many of the same lawyers working on the Florida case. | Win McNamee/Pool via AP

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—Donald Trump won in federal court again, getting an indefinite postponement of his federal trial in West Palm Beach, Fla., on 37 counts of illegally stealing top-secret government documents and taking them to his Mar-a-Lago estate.

On May 7, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee who passed muster with the radical right Federalist Society for her job, threw that huge monkey wrench into the secret documents trial, taking it out of the presidential election campaign.

And a May 22 preliminary hearing in that ongoing saga raises the possibility she may toss it out altogether. Judge Cannon will hold “non-evidentiary hearings on defendants’ motion to dismiss [the] indictment for insufficient pleading,” her order says.

And in a brushoff of the vital interest voters have in knowing a verdict on Trump before the election, the judge added: “The ends of justice served by this continuance, through the last [pre-trial] deadline” in her order, July 22, “outweigh the best interest of the public and defendants in a speedy trial.”

Judge Cannon’s postponement virtually assures voters will have before them only one of the four verdicts in remaining Trump trials when they go to the polls on November 5 to decide if he should retake the presidency. Trump faces the man who beat him four years ago, Democrat Joe Biden.

Judge Cannon indefinitely postponed Trump’s federal trial on charges of illegally stealing top secret and classified documents from the White House. At Mar -a-Lago, Trump also revealed them to unauthorized people, including an Australian business magnate.

When the magnate arrived home Down Under, he promptly blabbed about it. The documents included a secret Pentagon plan to make war on Iran and how many nuclear missiles each U.S. submarine carries.

Some secret documents were scattered over on a Mar-a-Lago floor. Trump and his aides, who are now his co-defendants in Florida, also stored boxes of them in a bathroom shower. Just as important as and perhaps more important than the particulars in the papers stolen by Trump is Trump’s false claim that they are his personal property. If he gets away with that argument a Pandora’s box is open for future presidents who may decide to steal documents relating to almost anything. Taking the documents as “personal property” —Trump’s claim—is illegal under a 1978 post-Watergate presidential records law.

“Finalization of a trial date at this juncture—before resolution of the myriad and interconnected pre-trial issues remaining and forthcoming—would be imprudent and inconsistent with the court’s duty to fully and fairly consider the various pending pre-trial motions, critical issues, and additional pretrial and trial preparations necessary to present this case to a jury,” Judge Cannon wrote in postponing the trial.

The judge then dumped the May 20 trial date she had set, which was later than Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith and his team had sought, and said the date would “be reset by separate order following resolution” of all those issues.

Masterpiece of doublespeak

And in a masterpiece of doublespeak, Judge Cannon said postponing the trial with no date to resume it is “consistent with defendants’ right to due process and the public’s interest in the fair and efficient administration of justice.”

As a result of Judge Cannon’s ruling, the sole verdict voters will have in hand is in the most salacious of the trials, the hush money-cover-up case now proceeding in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

In that trial, jurors on May 7 heard details of misogynist Trump’s womanizing and his illegal attempts to cover up hush money to two women involved by charging the checks off to his firm as lawyer’s fees—and as illegally excessive campaign contributions.

Trump signed the checks, to his lawyer-fixer, Michael Cohen, who will testify in the coming days. Cohen ensured the women, or their reps, got paid.

That trial also saw State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan levy a tenth $1000 contempt-of-court fine against Trump for violating the justice’s gag order barring Trump’s insults of witnesses—including Cohen and the two women—the court, the prosecutors, and the judge’s family.

“Mr. Trump, it’s important to understand that the last thing I want to do is to put you in jail,” Justice Merchan warned. “You are the former president of the United States, and possibly the next president, as well.”

But the justice didn’t impose the usual sanction for contempt of court: Imprisonment, clad in an orange jumpsuit, leg irons, and handcuffs, and being sent off to infamous prisons on Riker’s Island or Sing Sing.

Voters will also have in hand the New York state civil judgment against Trump, his kids, and his company lost in their tax fraud. And a fine that’s a minimum of $175 million.

Trump and the firm low-balled—lied—about the values of his Westchester County estate, Fifth Avenue apartment, golf clubs, hotels, skyscrapers, and Mar-a-Lago for state property tax assessments and massively inflated their values when seeking loans to finance and insure them.

Voters will also miss two verdicts besides the Florida case. Both deal with Trump’s schemes to steal the 2020 presidential election. Trump-engineered delays, plus motions, evidence evaluations, and other postponements will stall both those trials until beyond this November’s election.

One delay is at the U.S. Supreme Court, which will decide whether Trump has immunity from criminal prosecution forever for depriving voters of the federal rights to a free and fair election through directing, aiding and abetting the Jan. 6, 2021 invasion, insurrection, and attempted coup d’etat at the U.S. Capitol.

The practical effect of the High Court—including three Trump-named justices—deciding his immunity no earlier than the end of June is to delay that U.S. District Court stolen election case in D.C.

He would dismiss it

If Trump wins the White House and takes office again, he’ll appoint Justice Department toadies who will dismiss it. Those same toadies would also dismiss the Florida documents case. Both being junked would delight Trump.

The other delay is in Georgia’s election racketeering and conspiracy state case against Trump and more than a dozen co-defendants for trying to steal the swing state’s key electoral votes.

“Find me 11,780 [popular] votes,” to steal the state by one ballot, Trump ordered GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s top elections official, in a testy and infamous recorded 45-minute phone call. Raffensperger refused.

Trump’s lawyers delayed that Georgia case by engineering a sideshow entangling Fulton County (Atlanta) DA Fani Willis and her chief investigator in what the attorneys alleged was a romantic relationship and conflict of interest.

An internet search of good government organizations, including Public Citizen, the ACLU, Democracy 21, Common Cause, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, turned up no immediate comments on Judge Cannon’s indefinite postponement.

A Twitter/X search produced predictably partisan reactions: Trumpites vs everybody else, except for Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney for Alabama, and frequent analyst for MSNBC, and Ty Cobb, a former counsel in Trump’s White House. Both slammed Judge Cannon.

Vance said on Twitter/X that Judge Cannon forgets about our rights while catering to Trump’s.

“This is news but it’s hardly unexpected. Judge Cannon seems desperate to avoid trying this case. This isn’t justice. Defendants aren’t the only ones with Speedy Trial Act rights, we the people have them too,” Vance wrote.

Cobb told CNN Judge Cannon’s order made clear what has been obvious but unstated: She never wants the case to come to trial.

“Her wholesale inability to do it was made palpable,” he said. “To be fair to her, I once said she may just be incompetent. But no, I think this is a combination of bias and incompetence. The things that she has done here are really inexplicable, and it’s tragic.”

Unfortunately, Cobb said, Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith can do little about her decision. The court calendar and rulings on preliminary moves, such as hearings and motions, are all in a judge’s hands.

“She has not honored the public’s interest by sitting in her office, apparently paralyzed and not ruling on easily resolvable motions” from the attorneys, said Cobb. As a result, “This case can’t go to trial until mid- to late 2025 and it won’t go to trial if Trump is elected.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.