Former fed prosecutor who gave Mar-a-Lago judge ‘benefit of doubt’ slams ‘dead wrong’ decisions

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Kristy Greenberg, Aileen Cannon

Former federal prosecutor Kristy Greenberg during a March 21, 2024 “Morning Joe” appearance (MSNBC/screengrab), Aileen Cannon (U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida)

A former federal prosecutor and legal analyst who said she was “willing to give” the Mar-a-Lago trial judge “the benefit of the doubt” has changed her mind, citing the consistent flow of “dead wrong” rulings that “always” end up in the favor of former President Donald Trump’s defense team.

MSNBC legal analyst Kristy Greenberg, formerly the deputy chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, appeared Thursday on “Morning Joe” and counted the ways that, in her view, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has erred.

“I was willing to give her the benefit of the judge, initially. She’s a new judge, she’s inexperienced, she’s taking time, and she’s trying to get it right. But, she’s getting it dead wrong, and every time she gets it dead wrong it’s always in Donald Trump’s favor,” Greenberg began. “I mean, just in the last month or so we have a ruling where she is ordering the identities of witnesses to be unsealed. There’s no trial date! There’s no need to be unsealing the identities and statements of witnesses who could be harassed and have a risk of harm.”

Greenberg adds to the latest wave of criticism of Cannon’s rulings, whether by not definitively resolving Trump’s Espionage Act “unconstitutional vagueness” arguments (she denied the motion to dismiss without prejudice) or by ordering up proposed jury instructions under the assumption that the Presidential Records Act allowed Trump to decide that national defense documents were personal items.

On these points, the former federal prosecutor Cannon’s decision to leave the door open for the defense to repeat “unconstitutional vagueness” arguments “as appropriate in connection with jury-instruction briefing and/or other appropriate motions.

“Then you have her recent non-ruling that she’s gonna kick the can down the road on whether the Espionage Act is vague. It’s not vague,” Greenberg said. “It’s well-established law, the terms are clear, it was clear to Donald Trump, he was told he couldn’t keep the classified documents, that was a bad ruling.”

Finally, the legal analyst called the “jury instructions” order a “third strike.”

“If this were a law school exam, she would be failing,” Greenberg said.

Cannon’s Monday filing inspired legal commentators to call the move “the most bizarre order I’ve ever seen issued by a federal judge,” an act of “legal inanity,” “legally insane,” “nutty,” and a gift to the defense as a path forward to acquittal based on a misstatement of what the law says. Some lawyers suggested it was “bonkers” enough to seek mandamus from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit then and there.

Former federal judges chimed in too, with comments to the Washington Post on Wednesday. One called the order something he had not seen in his 30 years on the bench. The other called it “very, very troubling” — in that Cannon is “giving credence to arguments that are on their face absurd” — and troubling that so many other “equally absurd” motions remain up in the air, threatening to drag out the case for no good reason.

For instance, Trump’s motion to dismiss based on selective and vindictive prosecution, a motion to dismiss based on asserted presidential immunity, a motion to dismiss on grounds that special counsel Jack Smith was unlawfully appointed and funded each remain on the table. The judge, a Trump appointee, has not yet ruled either on Smith’s motion for reconsideration regarding the possible outing of government witnesses through discovery, an outcome that the special counsel said would be a “manifest injustice” traceable to Cannon’s “clear error.” Nor, as of Thursday morning, has Cannon ruled on Trump’s motion to dismiss under the PRA.

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