Individual Absent from Trump's Arraignment Emerges as Key Figure at Trial
Arraignment of ex-president Trump in Miami goes smoothly, judge absent.
Uneventful, that's how the arraignment of an ex-president went down in Miami Tuesday afternoon. And the second-most important person involved with the case wasn't even there.
That would be Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump-appointee who has been controversial to say the least in some of her rulings in Trump's favor. Yes, one of Trump's "favorite judges" is currently assigned to preside over the trial, though she wasn't in the room during his arraignment Tuesday.
Special counsel Jack Smith was seated in the courtroom, three rows behind Trump, but Trump didn't look around, so it's unlikely they made eye contact. (Trump has called Smith "a deranged lunatic" and "a psycho.")
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has been criticized for going overboard with espionage act charges against Trump. However, during the arraignment, Trump remained silent, only whispering to his lawyers. He appeared dejected, sitting hunched over with a scowl on his face, mirroring his demeanor at his first arraignment in New York.
Trump's lawyer entered a "not guilty" plea on his behalf. Walt Nauta, the Navy aide charged with aiding and abetting Trump, did not enter a plea due to the absence of a local attorney. He will have to return on another day.
The proceedings were brief and perfunctory, except for a discussion about prohibiting Trump from talking to witnesses. The DOJ stated that it would provide the names of the witnesses, some of whom Trump interacts with on a daily basis.
Despite concerns of unrest and heightened security measures, there was little tumult outside the courthouse. One protester dressed in prison stripes was tackled and arrested after dashing in front of Trump's motorcade. Overall, the crowd remained mostly peaceful, thanks to the extra police presence.
Inside the courthouse, Judge Smith requested a speedy trial, which in the Florida circuit means 70 days. However, it is expected that Trump and his legal team will employ delaying tactics to extend the timeline, as they have done in the past.
Judge Cannon's assignment to the case could work in Trump's favor. She has previously ruled favorably for Trump, although her rulings were later overruled by a three-judge panel. This has led to criticism that she may be protecting the president who appointed her. Cannon has the power to make the government's case more difficult, and she even has the authority to dismiss the case entirely, although this would come with significant reputational damage.
Observers will closely watch Cannon's actions to see if her previous rulings have influenced her decisions. For instance, will she admit evidence obtained when the client-attorney privilege was breached? Cannon's decisions could potentially push the trial beyond the 2024 election, giving Trump a chance to self-pardon or be pardoned by a Republican president. It is worth noting that the federal conviction rate in cases involving national security breaches is over 99 percent.
Cannon's involvement could turn what should be a straightforward case into a lengthy saga that accompanies Trump's campaign. Her earlier rulings indicate a potential bias in favor of Trump, as she is a member of the conservative Federalist Society. However, if she acts egregiously in Trump's favor, special counsel Smith could seek to have her removed, although this is unlikely as it would further inflame Trump's supporters.
Ultimately, the hope is that Judge Cannon understands the distinction between loyalty and fascism.