'No more kings': Law professor explains how 3 judges 'utterly demolished' Trump's Mar-a-Lago defense
Donald Trump speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Former President Donald Trump found a sympathetic voice in the Mar-a-Lago/government documents case when federal Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, granted his request for a special master. But many legal experts have been highly critical of Cannon’s ruling. One of them is University of Baltimore law professor Kimberly Wehle.

In an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on December 5, Never Trumper Wehle applauds a three-judge panel for its rebuke of both Trump and Cannon.

“On Thursday, (December 1), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit finally put to rest the special master nonsense that Donald Trump set in motion late August, when he persuaded U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon to interfere with the FBI’s investigation of his illegal harboring of classified and other presidential records at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida,” Wehle explains. “Special Counsel Jack Smith can now proceed apace with the investigation. What’s remarkable about the decision is not the outcome —anyone with a passing legal education could see that Cannon’s ruling was indefensible. It’s how the panel of three judges utterly demolished Trump and Cannon both, in unforgiving language inspired by foundational principles of constitutional restraint.”

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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has been investigating Trump in two separate cases: one having to do with government documents he was keeping at his Mar-a-Lago compound in Palm Beach, Florida, the other pertaining to the events of January 6, 2021. In both cases, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed Jack Smith as a special counsel to conduct the investigations.

Attorney Neal Katyal, a scathing Trump critic who served as acting U.S. solicitor general under President Barack Obama, doesn’t believe that appointing a special counsel was a wise decision on Garland’s part; Katyal believes it will slow down the investigations unnecessarily. But Garland obviously decided that bringing in someone from outside DOJ was necessary in order to counter MAGA claims that the Trump-related probes are partisan in nature. Garland has stressed that his motivation is the rule of law, not partisan politics.

“The court made a few things very clear: The FBI acted entirely by the book, which nobody disputes, including Trump,” Wehle writes. “Cannon had no constitutional — that is, ‘jurisdictional’ — authority to do what she did, unless a former president is somehow extra-special and above the laws that apply to everyone else. Cannon assumed Trump is. He’s not.”

The three-judge panel said of Trump’s defense, “All these arguments are a sideshow. The law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so.”

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Wehle comments, “The vivid picture is not good for Trump, who is under criminal investigation for these misdeeds. And the decision effectively lets Special Counsel Smith loose on all 22,000 documents so the government can pursue the story to its logical conclusion, which could include in an indictment…. Sorry, Donald. No more kings.”

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