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Aileen Cannon practicing law in “the upside down”—Legal analyst


Judge Aileen Cannon who is presiding over Donald Trump‘s classified documents case in Florida “is practicing law in the ‘upside down'” MSNBC legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner said on Friday.

In a video posted to his YouTube channel, Kirschner, a former assistant U.S. attorney and a frequent Trump critic, criticized Cannon’s procedure in the case against the former president.

Trump is due to stand trial after being indicted last June by Department of Justice‘s (DOJ) special counsel Jack Smith on 40 federal charges, alleging that he illegally retained classified documents after leaving the White House in 2021 and obstructed the government’s efforts to retrieve them. Trump’s indictment came after the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, in August 2022. The former president has pleaded not guilty and has said the case is politically motivated.

Cannon, who was appointed by Trump in 2020, has faced criticism, largely along partisan lines, for delaying the trial and not setting a start date. On Thursday, she came under fire again after The New York Times reported that she declined to recuse herself from the case despite advice from two Florida judges to do so.

That same report, which was based on anonymous sources and could not be independently verified by Newsweek, raised eyebrows in the legal community. Two former federal prosecutors, Neama Rahmani and Gene Rossi, previously told Newsweek that judges asking another judge to recuse themselves is “unusual” and “unheard of,” respectively. However, Rahmani noted that “this is no usual judge and case.”

In his Friday video, Kirschner criticized Cannon’s repeated delay of the trial and failure to select a starting date, stating that “Jack Smith said July 8, Donald Trump’s lawyers proposed August 12, and Judge Cannon said I’m not setting any trial date.”

The indefinitely postponed trial hangs in the air amid a tight upcoming November election, with Trump again facing off against President Joe Biden. The first presidential debate of this election cycle is scheduled for June 27.

Beyond election matters, the date is important for the pre-trial legal proceedings, with Kirschner explaining, “It is only once we have a trial date locked in that we can set a bunch of intermediate dates by which motions have to be filed, litigated, and resolved, so we can get to a timely trial—not judge Cannon.”

Fort Pierce Courtroom
Supporters of former President Donald Trump stand outside of the Alto Lee Adams Sr. U.S. Courthouse as they await his arrival on March 1 in Fort Pierce, Florida. Judge Aileen Cannon who is presiding over…


Joe Raedle/Getty Images

He referred to Cannon’s delay of the case as “practicing law in the upside down,” presumably referring to the alternate dimension featured in the popular Netflix show Stranger Things. The fictional dimension exists in parallel to the human world. Kirschner said on Friday, “At some point, it’s got to end.”

He added: “The only way to bring it to an end is for Jack Smith to file and fully litigate a motion to recuse, a motion to remove, judge Cannon because her impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

There have been calls for Smith to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to remove Cannon from Trump’s case, which Smith has yet to act on.

Newsweek has reached out to Cannon through the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida for comment via email on Saturday. Newsweek also reached out to Kirschner and other legal analysts for comment via email on Saturday.

On Friday, the court began a hearing into Trump’s motion to challenge the legality of Smith’s appointment. Trump’s legal team has argued that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland‘s appointment of Smith to prosecute the case is invalid because Garland lacks the legal authority to appoint a special counsel who hasn’t been approved by Congress. Smith’s team, meanwhile, rebuked the argument.

Kirschner told Newsweek via telephone on Friday, “I don’t expect her to grant Trump’s motion to dismiss or disqualify Jack Smith as special counsel.”