Jack Smith troubles brew as Judge Cannon recusal demands grow

 March 15, 2024

Special Counsel Jack Smith may be facing a time crunch if he intends to request the removal of Judge Aileen Cannon from Donald Trump's trial involving classified documents.

Though Smith has not signaled any formal intention to petition the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to remove Cannon from the federal case, there have been persistent calls for such action.

Criticism grows

Critics cite Cannon's multiple decisions favoring the former president and urge Smith to take action, especially following Brian Butler's public disclosure of his role in assisting co-defendant Walt Nauta in moving boxes of classified materials onto Trump's private plane in June 2022.

Butler's decision to speak out came after Cannon ruled to disclose the identities of potential witnesses in the trial, a move previously criticized by Smith as potentially leading to harassment and intimidation.

"Instead of waiting for it to emerge in the news, I think it's better that I get to at least say what happened," Butler told CNN. "I'd rather just get it out there, and the hope is, at least I can move on with my life and get over this."

The battle at hand

Following Butler's revelation, veteran Democratic political scientist Norman Ornstein took to X, formerly Twitter, to denounce Cannon, suggesting it was time for Smith to seek her removal.

Former federal prosecutor and legal analyst Joyce Vance described the situation as "disturbing," noting that one of the government's witnesses was now exposed due to Cannon's ruling.

The timing of the federal election trial complicates matters, potentially deterring Smith from seeking Cannon's removal to avoid delays.

The trial

The trial is slated for May 20, but Cannon is anticipated to postpone proceedings. Trump's legal team proposed a trial start date of August 12, as mandated by court order, though they previously suggested postponing until 2025 due to campaign commitments.

Should Trump prevail over President Joe Biden in the election before the trial concludes, he could instruct the Department of Justice to drop the case upon assuming office.

Smith's office has proposed rearranging the trial for July to secure a jury decision before the election.

Former U.S. attorney Barbara McQuade expressed skepticism about Smith's likelihood of pursuing Cannon's recusal, citing the absence of sufficient grounds.

Despite perceptions of bias, McQuade emphasized judges' obligation to uphold due process, suggesting a motion for Cannon's removal would likely falter, potentially worsening Smith's position.

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