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More Than 100K Sign Petition Calling for Judge’s Removal From Trump Docs Case

The number of signatures on the petition doubled after Cannon indefinitely suspended the trial date this week.

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, 2024, in Fort Pierce, Florida.

A petition posted on MoveOn.org calling for the removal of federal Judge Aileen Cannon from the case relating to former President Donald Trump’s improper transfer of classified government documents upon leaving office has amassed more than 100,000 signatures.

The petition is directed specifically toward Chief Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, claiming that she has the authority to remove Cannon from the case. It further stipulates that Altonaga has a duty to do so, given the questionable actions taken by Cannon that have benefited Trump — including pre-trial rulings she’s made that have been overruled by higher courts.

Cannon, who was appointed by Trump himself, should, under federal rules, be removed from the case if her “impartiality might be reasonably questioned,” the petition says.

It adds:

Former President Donald J. Trump is facing 37 federal charges, including 31 violations of the Espionage Act, for stealing from and refusing to return top-secret nuclear and military documents to the government. Trump believes he is above the law, and the outcome of this federal case is critical to proving to the nation that he is not. It’s imperative that an impartial, trustworthy judge oversee this high-stakes trial. Judge Cannon is not this person.

The petition was originally created around 10 months ago, and had amassed about 50,000 names from that time to this week. However, in light of Cannon’s announcement earlier this week that she had indefinitely suspended the start of the trial, the total number of signatures has more than doubled.

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 102,000 people had signed on to the demand to remove Cannon from the case.

The petition calls on Altonaga to put the case before a new judge who will “prioritize equal justice under the law.” However, it’s unclear whether she actually has the authority to do so.

Federal law allows parties to a case to file a grievance with the judge overseeing it, provided they file a “sufficient affidavit that the judge before whom the matter is pending has a personal bias or prejudice.” A separate law also gives chief judges “precedence” at any session of the court that they’ve previously attended, and indeed, Altonaga has presided at some hearings related to the trial. But that law doesn’t explicitly state that chief judges can remove other judges from a case.

Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith could also ask the 11th District Circuit Court of Appeals to remove Cannon from the case. Doing so would cause another delay to the pre-trial proceedings, but wouldn’t hamper the timeline any more than Cannon’s rulings already have.

Smith has indicated that he may choose this option in the future. Last month, he filed a brief to the court calling some of Cannon’s actions “fundamentally flawed,” though he stopped short of saying she was acting prejudicially.

“He is close to pushing the nuclear button,” Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg told NBC News about Smith possibly requesting Cannon’s removal. Although it’s a “high burden to reach and is rarely done,” Smith may be nearing his “breaking point” with the current judge, Aronberg added.

Following Cannon’s announcement this week that the case would be delayed indefinitely, other legal experts also suggested that she should be removed from the case.

“Based on the totality of the circumstances of MAGA Judge Cannon’s handling of the docs case, I do believe Smith must ask for her removal on grounds of both bias & incompetence,” former assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Signorelli said on X.

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