Before she became a federal judge — not just any judge, but the Donald Trump-appointed judge who slammed the brakes on the high-profile investigation into the former president’s stash of secret documents at Mar-a-Lago — Aileen Mercedes Cannon was for the blink of an eye a working journalist.
It was 20 years before Cannon, assigned to a court in Fort Pierce, Florida, elicited both ecstasy and fury, depending on how one views the former president.
During a span of three months, Cannon got over a dozen articles published by el Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language daily that is the sister publication of the Miami Herald.
Born in Cali, Colombia, she was one of many interns have passed through the two newsrooms over the years. Some stay on staff as full-fledged employees. Some have yet to earn a degree and go back to campus. Others end up at different newsrooms or in alternate careers.
The el Nuevo Herald articles would long been forgotten except they ended up on the judicial application submitted by Cannon, an application that is now getting close scrutiny as critics question her decision to support Trump’s request for the appointment of a “special master” to review all of the documents seized by the FBI when it executed its search warrant at his Florida home. The judge’s order halted the government’s investigation into those sensitive records.
The judge’s intervention, which the Justice Department is seeking to get reversed, was hailed by supporters of the ex-president but assailed by critics, who said it was meant to delay the ongoing criminal investigation into the ex-president.
Critics, diving into the application for evidence, have questioned Cannon’s qualifications and accused the Trump legal team of shopping for a sympathetic judge.
Nominated by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Cannon was confirmed in the period after Trump lost the election as efforts were made to confirm as many judges as possible before the new administration took charge.
The application Cannon filled out asks the following question: “List the titles, publishers and dates of books, articles, reports, letters to the editor, editorial pieces, or other published material you have written or edited, including material published on the Internet. ”
Cannon listed 20 items. Three are scholarly in nature, and 17 are short news items in el Nuevo Herald from summer 2002. None had anything to do with the law or the inside of a courtroom. Headlines included:
▪ “Tomatoes may help reduce tumors”
▪ “The Atoms Family: An Exhibition about Energy”
▪ “Winners in the Library Quest Competition”
▪ “Prenatal Yoga: A Healthy Alternative for Delivery”
The Miami Herald talked to ten el Nuevo Herald employees from that era. None could remember any dealings with Cannon during her short stay 20 years back.
Myriam Amenguer, a receptionist at the time, said she got to know almost all the interns from that time, but doesn’t remember Cannon, who hailed from Duke University and was ultimately bound for the University of Michigan Law School and then eventually the Justice Department, where she became a prosecutor in the civil rights division.
Jeannette Rivera, who worked at el Nuevo covering state and county government in 2002, said though she remembers a lot of interns, but doesn’t remember Cannon.
Rivera later said she spoke to other former employees from the time to no avail. “It seems to me that her internship was unremarkable to say the least”.
For decades, some journalists have switched careers and opted to seek a law degree, often after covering stories about complex legal topics.
Few federal become judges. Fewer still presides over the most volatile, high-profile case in the country.
This story was originally published September 9, 2022 4:59 PM.