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How Judge Cannon’s Petty Ruling Could Be Her Downfall

Her decision could turn into a win for Jack Smith, not Donald Trump.

Jack Smith looks forward
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Judge Aileen Cannon may have slapped down a request to gag Donald Trump, but her indefinite delays on the trial could very likely put a deadline on her own involvement in the case entirely.

On Tuesday, Cannon rejected special counsel Jack Smith’s gag order request in Trump’s classified documents trial on the basis that the filing wasn’t polite enough, telling the federal prosecutor that he did not offer Trump’s legal team enough time to discuss (and ultimately reject) the request. But time is of the essence in Trump’s criminal trials—especially with a loose-lipped defendant who keeps haranguing federal agencies and a Trump-appointed judge who is slow-walking the case to an early grave.

Some legal experts have predicted that it’s that exact combination that will push the trial until after November and into a possibility where Trump could potentially pardon himself, avoiding any consequences for snagging the sensitive documents. But others believe that the constant delays could lead to another alternative: Cannon’s removal from the trial.

Cannon filed her decision Tuesday without prejudice, meaning that Smith can refile his request to gag the former president. If he does, Cannon would be forced to make a definitive ruling, explained MSNBC legal analyst Jordan Rubin.

Smith could then appeal that ruling—and “possibly [build] a case to try and get a new judge to preside,” Rubin wrote.

Legal scholar Matthew Seligman agreed that a renewed motion would put Cannon’s fate squarely in her own hands.If she doesn’t approve the renewed motion—or if she sits on it indefinitely—Smith could “potentially” go to the Eleventh Circuit and ask them to step in, Seligman told The New Republic’s Greg Sargent. Or if she denies it outright, there is an “overwhelming likelihood” that Smith will appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, during which he could ask for her removal.

“The obvious concern here is that Trump’s rhetoric is going to inspire violence against federal law enforcement officers, and this is something that can’t wait,” Seligman said, noting that the threat isn’t “purely hypothetical.”

In April, a former Navy submarine technician from North Carolina, Ervin Lee Bolling, rammed his SUV into the FBI’s Atlanta headquarters. His social media history revealed him to be an individual enmeshed in QAnon conspiracy theories—a political conspiracy that paints Trump as a messiah—making posts in support of Trump’s “Stop the Steal” election interference campaign, and said that he was “looking for a good militia to join” after a federal stimulus bill passed in December 2020.

But Trump’s recent messaging could do even more damage, Seligman warned. Over the weekend, Trump accused the Biden administration of authorizing the FBI to shoot him during its search and seizure of Mar-a-Lago—a claim that was, in actuality, a wild misread of a standard policy statement regarding the agency’s use of deadly force.

Biden Official Refuses to Answer on Red Line After Rafah Massacre

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby lost it after a question about Biden’s red line, as global uproar grows amid Israel’s assault on Rafah.

John Kirby speaks and splays his hands out as if in anger. He is giving a press briefing judging by the White House logo in the background.
Roberto Schmidt/Getty Images

The Biden administration still won’t change its policy toward Israel, despite overwhelming photo evidence of gruesome casualties in Israel’s latest attacks on Rafah in Gaza.

That was the message Tuesday from National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby at a press conference.

“The Israelis have said this is a tragic mistake,” Kirby told reporters when asked whether Israel’s attacks over the weekend qualified as the type of “death and destruction” U.S. officials have warned about.

“We’ve also said we don’t want to see a major ground operation in Rafah that would really make it hard for the Israelis to go after Hamas without causing extensive damage and potentially a large number of deaths. We have not seen that yet,” he said, claiming that Israel was operating mostly in a corridor on Rafah’s outskirts.

One reporter at the press conference, CBS News’s Ed O’Keefe, pressed Kirby after those comments.

“How does this not violate the red line the president laid out?” asked O’Keefe.

“As I said, we don’t want to see a major ground operation. We haven’t seen that at this point,” Kirby replied.

“How many more charred corpses does the president have to see before he considers a change in policy?” O’Keefe asked in response.

“We don’t want to see a single more innocent life taken,” Kirby said, before flipping out and remarking that he “kind of” took “a little offense at the question.”

The exchange was telling, as the Biden administration has previously said that any major operation in Rafah would constitute a “red line.” Events over the weekend would seem to show Israel has embarked on such an operation, with an estimated 45 Palestinians killed in a strike on Sunday and chilling images of burned corpses circulating on social media.

As Israel’s brutal war in Gaza leads to more civilian deaths, Biden runs the risk of losing the support of voters critical to his reelection campaign. His administration has sought to bury a report on Israel’s actions in Gaza and has pledged to defend Israel and its leaders in the face of a war crimes inquiry by the International Criminal Court. Increasingly, Biden’s statements attempting to reassure the American public are being undermined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the war continues. The best option, which Biden has been so far unwilling to adopt, may be halting weapons shipments to Israel, but there’s no telling if or when Biden will ever reach that point.

Hush-Money Judge Unleashes on Trump Lawyer Over His Closing Arguments

Judge Juan Merchan warned Trump attorney Todd Blanche about his “outrageous” remark.

Todd Blanche and Donald Trump sit in court
Sarah Yenesel/Pool/Getty Images

Judge Juan Merchan ripped into Donald Trump attorney Todd Blanche over his closing arguments during the former president’s hush-money trial Tuesday.

Blanche told the jurors that Trump could be sent to prison if convicted, drawing the ire of the prosecution, as well as Merchan. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass called Blanche’s comment a “blatant” and “inappropriate move” by the defense, and Merchan concurred.

“I think that comment was outrageous, Mr. Blanche. You know as someone who has been a prosecutor that it’s simply not allowed, period. It’s hard to see how that was an accident,” Merchan said, once the jurors had been dismissed for lunch. Upon Steinglass’s request, Merchan agreed to give a curative instruction to the jury when they returned.

Merchan told the jury that Blanche’s comment was “improper, and you must disregard it.”

“If there is a verdict of guilty, it will be up to me to impose a sentence,” Merchan said, adding that a “prison sentence is not required in the event of a guilty verdict.”

Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman said this was embarrassing for Blanche.

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It’s no secret that Trump faces jail time in this trial, but mentioning a potential sentence to a jury is considered a bad idea in criminal law. It’s not the first misstep for Blanche in this case, though. He’s been admonished by Merchan before when trying to come up with excuses for Trump to evade his gag order. He also had to be corrected by witness Michael Cohen during a cross-examination, and embarrassed himself reading insults in court. These missteps, as Merchan noted, should not be coming from someone who is a former federal prosecutor.

Trump is on trial for trying to cover up an affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election by paying her off with Cohen’s help. The Republican presidential nominee faces 34 felony charges for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime, and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Is the Secret Service Gearing Up to Jail Donald Trump?

Trump’s biggest supporters are having a proper meltdown over what comes next in the hush-money trial. And it involves a fair bit of misinformation.

Donald Trump walks in the courtroom
Steven Hirsch/Pool/Getty Images

Right-wing pundits and MAGA loyalists are losing their minds over something they made up, falsely claiming the Secret Service is knee-deep in preparations to ship their beloved Trump off to jail.

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Reality is far less electrifying: CBS reported Tuesday that there’s little clarity on what would happen if Trump is found guilty in criminal court ahead of jury deliberations for his hush-money trial. Within that news item, CBS referred to an unnamed Department of Corrections source  who said that, as part of exploring the full scope of possibilities ahead of a verdict in Trump’s hush-money trial, Secret Service met with “local jail officials”—in this case, likely officials at New York City’s notorious Rikers Island.

It’s not even clear where Trump would be imprisoned, if he is at all. Trump’s 34 felony charges could entail sentences of up to four years in prison—per charge. In New York City, felony convictions with sentences over a year are typically sent to state prisons, not carried out at Rikers Island, which is technically only supposed to hold people whose sentences are around one year, as well as people held pretrial. A freshly convicted Trump could potentially be held temporarily at Rikers before being transferred to a state penitentiary, but this all rests on whether Judge Juan Merchan pursues hard time for Trump at all.

The process is unusual—most convicts don’t come with their own lifetime Secret Service detail—but is altogether routine for the matter at hand and by no means indicates Trump will be sent to the pokey: As CBS notes, Merchan may favor sentencing Trump to house arrest. Merchan previously described jailing Trump as “truly a last resort for me” when Trump repeatedly violated his gag order, taking into consideration the difficulties for Secret Service and jail staff to ensure Trump’s safety behind bars.

Jury deliberations in Trump’s hush-money trial are expected to begin Wednesday. Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He has pleaded not guilty.

In Major Defection, Former Trump Ally Predicts Guilty Verdict

Trump’s former attorney Ty Cobb had some choice words.

Donald Trump sits between his lawyers Todd Blanche and Emil Love
Steven Hirsch/Pool/Getty Images

Former Trump White House attorney Ty Cobb believes that Donald Trump can expect a guilty verdict in his New York hush money-trial.

“I expect a ‘GUILTY’ verdict, but only because the jury instructions as urged by the DA and adopted by the judge, over strenuous and well founded defense objections, virtually require conviction,” Cobb told Semafor Tuesday.

In order to find Trump guilty of felony-level falsification of business documents, the jurors must unanimously agree that he did so in order to further an underlying or separate crime. But last week, against the best efforts of Trump’s legal team, Judge Juan Merchan ruled that the jury will not necessarily need to agree on what those separate or underlying crimes are.

“I reach this legal conclusion because of my long experience as a federal prosecutor and white collar defense lawyer, my reverence for the rule of law, and despite my view that Trump remains the greatest threat to Democracy in our nation’s history,” Cobb said.

The former White House attorney also expects the jury to deliver its verdict by the end of the week—assuming the deliberations follow an old rule of thumb.

“Jury deliberations are always difficult to predict, of course, but one marginally useful rule of thumb is ‘assume one day for each week of trial,’” Cobb explained. “Here even though there were five weeks of evidence, they were short weeks due to the Court not sitting on Wednesdays and to other days or partial days off. So think of it as 4 weeks of evidence. If the jury begins deliberations Tuesday afternoon, expect a verdict no later than Friday afternoon.”

Trump is accused of using his former fixer Michael Cohen to sweep an affair with porn star Stormy Daniels under the rug ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The Republican presidential nominee faces 34 felony charges in this case for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. Trump has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Trump Takes Revenge on MAGA Stooge Who Tried to Kiss the Ring

Donald Trump is humiliating Representative Bob Good.

Bob Good closeup
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Donald Trump lobbed a hefty snub to far-right lawmaker Bob Good on Tuesday morning, declaring he’s “BAD FOR VIRGINIA, AND BAD FOR THE USA.” Trump went on to endorse Good’s primary opponent, John McGuire, a former Navy SEAL turned Capitol insurrectionist.

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Good has been down bad trying to curry favor with Trump, including traveling all the way to New York to kiss the ring outside Manhattan Criminal Court for Trump’s hush-money trial. During that visit, Good admitted that he and other Republican lawmakers were trying to help Trump evade his gag order.

“That’s why we went up there,” Good said on Fox Business during his visit. “So that we could say the things that this corrupt judge is not allowing him to say.”

Trump’s vengeful dismissal of Good—who chairs the far-right and disturbingly powerful House Freedom Caucus—appear to stem from Good’s early support of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s short-lived campaign for president. According to unnamed sources who spoke with CNN in December, Good’s endorsement of DeSantis came because he wanted a candidate who could be president for the next eight consecutive years—but Good still planned to support Trump if he became the nominee, calling him “the best president of my lifetime.”

Bob, the best president of your lifetime hates your guts.

Nikki Haley Signs Her Name on Israeli Bombs—Alongside Sick Message

As Israel continues its assault on Rafah, Nikki Haley is signing her name on Israeli artillery.

Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Nikki Haley, former presidential candidate turned Trump endorser, spent Memorial Day not commemorating fallen American servicemembers but visiting Israel as it conducts a brutal massacre in Gaza.

On Monday, Haley posted pictures from a visit to southern Israel, where she met with survivors from Hamas’s attack on October 7. Haley told reporters that the United States “needs to do whatever Israel needs and stop telling them how to fight this war.”

She also traveled to Israel’s northern border with a member of the Israeli Knesset, Danny Dannon, who posted pictures to his own X account on Tuesday with the text “Finish them!” The post also included a picture of Haley signing Israeli artillery shells with the message: “Finish them! America loves Israel!”

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Dannon’s post also included, in Hebrew, a message alluding to military strikes against southern Lebanon, referencing two Lebanese cities, according to Google Translate.

“This is what my friend, the former ambassador, Nikki Haley wrote today about a shell during a visit to an artillery post on the northern border,” Dannon wrote.

“The time has come to change the equation—the residents of Tyre and Sidon will evacuate, the residents of the north will return.

“The IDF can win!”

One post from an Israeli peace activist suggested that Haley visited West Bank settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.

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Leaving aside the optics of signing bombs when Israel is facing judgment from the International Criminal Court for possible war crimes in Gaza, appearing to endorse military strikes against another country flies in the face of America’s efforts to avoid a wider war in the Middle East. On Monday, an Israeli strike targeting a motorcycle in southern Lebanon landed outside of a hospital, killing the motorcycle driver and a hospital security guard. But more explicitly, Haley is endorsing Israel’s war in Gaza, which has officially killed at least 36,096 people, including 15,000 children, figures that probably don’t include Israel’s latest assault on Rafah.

Robert De Niro Absolutely Skewers Trump Outside Hush-Money Trial

Robert De Niro trolled Donald Trump as the verdict in his hush-money trial approaches.

Robert De Niro
Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Renowned actor turned social justice activist Robert De Niro offered choice words outside Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday during closing remarks for Trump’s hush-money trial, cutting through the haze of the clown show of Trump supporters to remind everyone that New Yorkers have always hated Donald Trump—with new stakes making that stance a necessity nationwide.

“Donald Trump doesn’t belong in my city,” De Niro said to a gaggle of press cameras. “We New Yorkers used to tolerate him when he was just another grubby real estate hustler masquerading as a big shot. A two-bit playboy lying his way into the tabloids. He’s a clown.”

“We’ve forgotten the lessons of history that showed us other clowns who weren’t taken seriously until they became vicious dictators,” De Niro added. “With Trump we have a second chance, and no one is laughing now. This is the time to stop him by voting him out once and for all.”

The acting titan was tapped by the Biden-Harris campaign to deliver remarks outside the Trump trial, according to Rolling Stone, and was repeatedly interrupted and accosted by Capitol riot participants.

“It is a coward’s violence,” De Niro said of Trump’s incitement of the January 6 Capitol riot. “You think Trump ever threw a punch himself? Or took one? He hid in the White House bunker with protesters outside. He directs the mob to do his dirty work for him.”

De Niro praised Capitol Police officers Michael Fanone and Harry Dunn for their efforts to beat back the mob of rabid Trump supporters, but was interrupted by a far-right activist who participated in the January 6 Capitol riot falsely claiming Fanone and Dunn lied under oath.

“I don’t even know how to deal with you, my friend,” De Niro laughed. Following his remarks, Capitol riot attendees and far-right grifters accosted the legendary actor. “We are trying to be gentlemen in this world,” De Niro shot back. “The Democrats are trying to be gentlemen. You are gangsters. Fuck you.”

The courthouse has been a beacon for political stooges dressed like Trump, far-right fans, and counterprotesters showing up to spoil their P.R. stunts amid Trump’s hush-money trial, which entered into closing remarks on Tuesday with jury deliberations beginning as soon as Wednesday.

Watch: Trump’s Disgusting Praise for “Beautiful” Bond with Kim Jong Un

Donald Trump is openly bragging about his good relationship with a cruel dictator.

Donald Trump smiles weirdly and raises his right fist as if in victory. He is outside and a man who is likely his bodyguard is in the background.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Donald Trump is still reminiscing about the greatest love of his presidency: Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of North Korea.

In an interview with right-wing podcaster Tim Pool over the weekend, Trump spoke at length about how good his relationship was with the dictator, claiming that Hillary Clinton would have brought the country to the brink of war had she been president.

“It boiled down to something that was very beautiful, the way it happened, and I got along with him very well,” Trump said, saying that their relationship “morphed” from insults early on.

“He respected me, I respected him,” said Trump. He called Kim a “very smart guy, very strong guy” and the “absolute leader” of his country.

It’s not the first time Trump has spoken glowingly of Kim in recent days. At his rally in the Bronx last week, Trump praised Kim in addition to fellow authoritarians Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Viktor Orbán, saying they were “at the top of their game, whether you like it or not.”

Trump spent a lot of time during his presidency trying to woo Kim, exchanging letters and engaging in two summits, only for no peace deal or actual rapprochement to come of it. So why gush about Kim now? Perhaps he’s trying to invent some kind of accomplishment to tout on the campaign trial. Or perhaps he’s trying to paper over recent, more accurate news.

Just a week ago, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union from 2018 to 2020, Gordon Sondland, said in an interview with Foreign Policy that he once asked Trump privately about Kim.

“‘OK, Mr. President, cut the bullshit. What do you think of Kim?’” Sondland says he asked Trump. “And he goes, ‘That fucker would knife me in the stomach if he had the chance.’”

U.S. intelligence agencies worry that Kim and other dictators might take steps to tip the election in Trump’s favor, launching an “October surprise” event on his behalf. It’s no secret that such authoritarians prefer Trump in office to be able to carry out their schemes unbothered.

Judge Cannon Blocks Trump Gag Order in Pettiest Way Possible

Trump can keep talking as much as he wants about the classified documents case.

Donald Trump speaks into a microphone
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Judge Aileen Cannon rejected a gag order request in Donald Trump’s classified documents trial Tuesday on the basis that the filing wasn’t polite enough.

The gag order, filed by special counsel Jack Smith, was “wholly lacking in substance and professional courtesy,” according to the judge, who noted that the request did not allot enough follow-up time for Trump’s legal team to discuss the request.

“Because the filing of the Special Counsel’s Motion did not adhere to these basic requirements, it is due to be denied without prejudice. Any future, non-emergency motion brought in this case—whether on the topic of release conditions or anything else—shall not be filed absent meaningful, timely, and professional conferral,” Cannon wrote.

It’s just one of many subtle wins that Cannon has handed to the presumptive GOP presidential nominee in the trial. Earlier this month, she ordered a temporary stay on Trump’s legal requirement to give the government advance notice of which classified materials will be discussed—but never added an expiration date to it, effectively placing an indefinite hold on the proceedings.

Legal experts have warned that Cannon’s delayed actions and aversion to expedite the federal obstruction case could delay the trial until after November, and could also be the Trump-appointed judge’s way of surreptitiously dismissing the trial altogether.

On Thursday, former Trump White House attorney Ty Cobb accused Cannon of “incompetence,” insisting that there’s more than enough evidence—and time—to take the case to trial before Election Day.

“And frankly, this is a case that should’ve started trial yesterday or two days ago when the original trial date was set,” Cobb told CNN. “This case could have easily gotten to trial. Only her incompetence and perceived bias has prevented that.”