A group of judges this week helped ensure that the investigation into former US President Donald Trump over the hijacking of top-secret documents from the White House proceeded undisturbed. In doing so, they have helped restore trust in our court system – and in democracy.
Former federal judge Raymond J. Dearie – whom the hapless judge Aileen M. Cannon chose to be the special judge to review the classified documents – acted quickly to put an end to Mr Trump’s delay and nonsense.
Judge Dearie ordered Mr Trump’s attorney to say definitively whether Mr Trump’s team would allege before a judge that documents were “housed” by the FBI at his resort town of Mar-a-Lago, as Mr Trump did publicly, but not before court has declared.
Coupled with his previous warning that he would likely contact the government if Mr Trump did not clarify whether he released any documents, Judge Dearie has systematically blasted Mr Trump’s frivolous lawsuits in a bid to stop the investigation – and his public propaganda campaign.
His lawyers must decide whether to go along with Mr Trump’s lies by putting their names on a court filing. I suspect they won’t.
Meanwhile, a three-judge panel of the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, consisting of two judges appointed by Mr. Trump and one by Barack Obama, has systematically analyzed and thrown out Judge Cannon’s rulings regarding the classified documents.
“We are only deciding the narrow question asked: whether the United States has established that it is entitled to a stay of the District Court order to the extent that it (1) requires the government to submit the classified documents for review by the special master submits markers and (2) prohibits the United States from using this subset of documents in a criminal investigation,” the panel ruled. “We conclude that it is so.”
The panel found Judge Cannon’s lack of fair jurisdiction. In examining the first part of the applicable test, the panel wrote: “The district court concluded that the plaintiff has failed to establish that the United States acted in callous disregard for his constitutional rights.”
That should have been the end, but the panel did not spare Judge Cannon that Mr Trump failed to meet all the other points of the test.
The court continued: “The plaintiff has not even attempted to show that he has a need to know the information contained in the classified documents. Nor has it found that the current administration has waived that requirement for those documents.” In other words, the panel was effectively saying Judge Cannon acted with no legal or factual basis.
Likewise, “Plaintiff suggests that he may have declassified these documents when he was President. But the record contains no evidence that any of those records were declassified.” That’s legalese for, What on earth was Judge Cannon thinking?
The panel also found that the idea of ”irreparable harm” to Mr. Trump, which Judge Cannon found essentially based on his mere capacity as a former president, was absent.
All citizens are exposed to potential reputational damage from criminal investigations; Your remedy is to dismiss the charges or to plead in court.
Contrary to Judge Cannon, the 11th Circuit Judicial District also found that the government would suffer irreparable harm if it prevented the Justice Department from continuing to investigate potential crimes because “its review of national security is inseparably intertwined with its criminal investigation.” Judge Cannon had no reason to ignore this.
If Judge Cannon turned the legal system on its head, the 11th Circuit turned it on its head. It reinforced the notion that Mr Trump is no different from any potential defendant – and that a court cannot facilitate his escapades by inventing conflicts of law and fact where none exist.
Objective reality counts. The law matters.
Perhaps Mr Trump’s lies and false statements really do not protect him in court. Perhaps he will be held accountable for his behavior. If so, these judges have undone some of the damage his lawlessness has done to our democracy.
For that we can say, well done. (©Washington Post)
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/judges-finally-show-they-are-willing-to-hold-donald-trump-accountable-42016011.html The judges are finally showing they are ready to hold Donald Trump accountable