Plus, a reader question about our surveys.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 13 minutes.

Judge Aileen Cannon has delayed Trump's classified documents case indefinitely. Plus, a reader question about our surveys.

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Quick hits.

  1. The Biden administration unveiled a proposed change to the asylum process that will allow immigration officials to deport migrants seeking asylum within days. (The changes)
  2. A State Department report to Congress said it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel had violated international law using arms sent by the U.S. (The report) Separately, the first shipment of humanitarian aid to a U.S.-built floating pier off Gaza's coast is en route. (The shipment)
  3. Michael Cohen, former President Trump's previous personal lawyer, is taking the stand today as a witness in Trump’s hush money case in Manhattan. (The testimony)
  4. Hunter Biden's request to dismiss gun charges was rejected by an appeals court, setting up a June trial. (The ruling)
  5. Vladimir Putin replaced his top defense minister as Russian forces launched a renewed ground offensive in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, prompting over 4,000 civilians to flee. (The shakeup) Separately, Ukraine struck two oil depots and a refinery deep inside Russian territory. (The strikes)

Today's topic.

Trump's trial delay in Florida. Judge Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over former President Donald Trump's classified documents case, indefinitely postponed his trial last week. The announcement all but assures the trial — once set to begin this month — will not be completed before election day in November.

Cannon has already pushed back several deadlines in the case. Her recent announcement cited the need to resolve pending pretrial litigation, including disputes over how classified documents can be used during the trial. In addition, Cannon set two hearings for May 22 on motions to dismiss the case outright.

"The Court also determines that finalization of a trial date at this juncture – before resolution of the myriad and interconnected pre-trial and CIPA issues remaining and forthcoming – would be imprudent and inconsistent with the Court’s duty to fully and fairly consider the various pending pre-trial motions before the Court, critical CIPA issues, and additional pretrial and trial preparations necessary to present this case to a jury," Cannon wrote in her new order.

CIPA, or the Classified Information Procedures Act, is a 1980 statute that provides guidelines for handling pre-trial disputes in cases involving classified information. Cannon has already ruled on a number of CIPA objections (siding with the prosecution), but the latest trial delay underscores the amount of unresolved CIPA-related challenges remaining in this case. 

Reminder: In June 2023, Trump was indicted on 37 counts of seven different charges, including willful retention of national defense information, false statements, conspiracy to obstruct, and withholding classified records. Special Counsel Jack Smith filed additional charges against Trump in August, including accusations that he and his aides attempted to delete surveillance footage from his Mar-a-Lago club so it couldn't be turned over to a grand jury. Trump pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

Cannon has faced criticism for her inexperience and potential bias since the case landed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The 43-year-old just meets the American Bar Association’s requirement with 12 years of legal practice before serving as a district judge, a position she was nominated for by the defendant, Donald Trump. 

Her decision making and extended bouts of silence on key rulings have also drawn sharp rebuke from legal experts. For example, she held a hearing on March 1 about how long to postpone the original May 20 trial date, but did not make any announcements about her decision until last week. In 2022, a three-judge appeals court panel overruled Cannon’s decision to temporarily prevent prosecutors from accessing over 100 classified documents relevant to Trump’s case. 

Elsewhere, Trump and his legal team have successfully delayed all the cases against him except the Manhattan trial on alleged "hush money" payments. Jack Smith's other case against Trump, over alleged efforts to overthrow the 2020 election, is on hold for the Supreme Court to consider the question of presidential immunity while disputes over the conduct of prosecutor Fani Willis have delayed his trial over similar state-level charges in Georgia.

Today, we're going to break down some arguments from the left and right about the indefinite delay in this case, and then my take. 

What the left is saying.

  • The left is outraged by the latest delay in the trial, framing Judge Cannon as incompetent and biased.
  • Some say Special Counsel Smith should pursue all available avenues to work around Cannon’s decision. 
  • Others criticize Cannon for creating the need for a delay through her own missteps.

The Times Union editorial board called the trial “justice delayed to death.”

“Legal scholars, ethicists and pundits will doubtless debate whether Judge Cannon – whom Mr. Trump appointed to the bench – corruptly accommodated his attempts to delay the trial or was merely incompetent,” the board wrote. “Whatever the reason, it certainly appears that Judge Cannon slow-walked this case, and her performance when she did act was sometimes blatantly flawed. That’s not conjecture: A three-judge appeals court panel in 2022 found substantial errors in her move to block government access to the very documents involved in the case.” 

“The question of whether Mr. Trump broke the law, at least in this case, will likely be unresolved when voters go to the polls to decide whether he should be returned to the highest office in the land. It’s possible, then, that a man accused of illegally hoarding sensitive national security documents and going to extraordinary lengths to cover up that wrongdoing will pick an attorney general, any number of federal judges, and people who will lead federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”

In The Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin said “Cannon plays ‘catch and kill’ with the Trump classified documents case.”

“On its face, Cannon’s statement is absurd, practically an admission that the case is too complicated for her,” Rubin wrote. “Her latest delay follows a series of widely criticized moves revealing her inexperience. Among the most inexplicable: Demanding a debate on jury instructions (even sillier in retrospect, with a trial postponed indefinitely!) and threatening to reveal witnesses’ names, which prosecutors say would endanger them.”

“What can Smith do? The special counsel might make a motion to recuse. Cannon would deny it, but he could then take it up with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit… Alternatively, he might go to the 11th Circuit seeking a writ of mandamus, essentially an order requiring Cannon to decide the pending issues,” Rubin said. “Many legal experts still argue that Smith might as well try one of these moves: What has he got to lose? At the very least, the special counsel can highlight the danger of giving Trump another chance to stock the courts with Aileen Cannons.”

In MSNBC, Hayes Brown wrote “Cannon set herself up for failure.”

“To say that Cannon finds herself in an entirely avoidable situation is an understatement. The primary speed bump preventing a swift speedy resolution of the issues she cites in explaining her delay is none other than Cannon herself. It’s impossible at this juncture to definitively apportion the blame for this cascading failure on inexperience, partisan malice and simply being dealt a bum hand. What is clear though is that Cannon has made what should have been one of the most straightforward cases against Trump into a quagmire of her own creation.”

“Unfortunately for everyone who isn’t a co-defendant in this case, Cannon’s careful treading fits perfectly with Trump’s preferred strategy of delaying his court appearances for as long as possible,” Brown said. “Given the clear evidence that Trump was in possession of the documents seized despite a subpoena to return them and attempted to foil the government’s efforts to recover them, this should be an open and shut case once it gets before a jury. Instead, Cannon has only painted herself into a corner, overcorrecting from her past mistakes in a way that has only exacerbated her subsequent follies.”

What the right is saying.

  • The right supports the decision, arguing that Smith’s desired timeline for the case was never feasible.
  • Some say the left’s reaction to the news shows their only goal is convicting Trump before the election. 
  • Others say the cases against Trump are all falling apart.

In his blog, Jonathan Turley criticized Democrats’ “attacks” on Judge Cannon.

“Democrats have accused Judge Aileen Cannon of being politically compromised, if not conspiratorial, in her delay of the Florida trial over the mishandling of classified documents. Yet, there is ample reason for the delay that many of us anticipated in this type of case when it was filed,” Turley said. “Smith has repeatedly sought to curtail trial review and even appellate rights of Trump to advance his schedule. His office has made convicting Trump before the election the overriding objective of its motion — a sharp departure from past Justice Department efforts to avoid trials to influence elections.”

“Judge Cannon is faced with recent admissions that the government mixed up files in the boxes and staged the famous photos of documents strewn over a floor with classified jackets. Most importantly, disputes over the relevant documents continue as expected in the case. Nevertheless, leading Democrats are denouncing Cannon as a partisan hack,” Turley wrote. “It is the timing as much as the charges that makes this so important to the Justice Department and the Democrats. Smith has crafted this case to impact the election and the failure of the court to support that effort is apparently grounds for recusal.”

In Hot Air, Jazz Shaw said the left is more interested in keeping Trump “off the campaign trail” than ensuring justice is served.

“Trials take place when both the prosecution and the defense are prepared to move forward. Relatively simple, straightforward cases can move to trial quickly while more complicated allegations can take quite a while to resolve. But Trump has been surging in the polls lately while Joe Biden is roughly as popular as an impacted wisdom tooth, so the left is desperate to keep Trump off the campaign trail and, if possible, put him behind bars.” 

“Of course, nothing in Cannon's ruling so much as suggested anything about Donald Trump's innocence or guilt or questioned whether he should stand trial. These were simple procedural difficulties that made the original trial date impractical,” Shaw wrote. “Their hypocrisy is evident, but the Democrats don't seem to care because this was never about the law. It's all about trying to keep Trump out of office and off the ballot if possible.”

In The Wall Street Journal, Kimberley A. Strassel called the delay the latest in “the lawfare implosion of 2024.”

“The prosecution is fuming, while the press insinuates—or baldly asserts—that the judge is biased for Mr. Trump, incompetent or both. But it is Mr. Smith and his press gaggle who are living in legal unreality, attempting to rush the process to accommodate a political timeline,” Strassel said. “What did they expect? Mr. Smith waited until 2023 to file legally novel charges involving classified documents, a former president, and a complex set of statutes governing presidential records.”

“Little, in short, is going as planned. The lawfare strategy from the start: pile on Mr. Trump in a way that ensured Republicans would rally for his nomination, then use legal proceedings to crush his ability to campaign, drain his resources, and make him too toxic (or isolated in prison) to win a general election. He won the nomination, but the effort against him is flailing, courtesy of an echo chamber of anti-Trump prosecutors and journalists who continue to indulge the fantasy that every court, judge, jury and timeline exists to dance to their partisan fervor.”

My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, don't unsubscribe. Write in by replying to this email, or leave a comment.

  • It’s not Judge Cannon’s fault that this case is complicated.
  • We should have always expected this to proceed slowly and for Trump’s team to use delay tactics.
  • However, a lot of Cannon’s decisions indicate an extra level of bias that’s hard to explain away, and she’ll deserve some blame when this trial gets pushed back to after November.

Some of the defenses of Judge Aileen Cannon are genuinely strong.

For starters, it's true that Special Counsel Jack Smith brought some complex charges in a legally novel case against a former president in 2022, and that he added to those charges less than a year ago. Expecting this case to move through the federal court system before the November election was always optimistic, especially since Trump's team was always going to pursue a smart — but also wholly legitimate — legal strategy of challenge and delay. For instance, they recommended that a special master review thousands of classified documents at once before they could be handed over to prosecutors. They even pushed back on whether the appointment of Special Counsel Smith was legal in the first place.

Some things that Trump's team are challenging in the case are so sensitive that Judge Cannon has determined that discussing them openly would be a threat to national security. And I don’t blame Cannon for that. Complex issues like those will come up when a former president is charged with taking thousands of classified government documents to his personal residence.

I’m also keen to ignore a lot of the hysterical nonsense that always surrounds federal judges (especially Supreme Court judges). Every time liberals get a Supreme Court ruling they don't like, we're bound for commentary about how "corrupt" the "far-right extremists" on the court have become. Every time conservatives see a ruling they don't like in some federal district court, they'll bemoan an “Obama-appointed” judge presiding in a "liberal" circuit. So when I hear people reduce Cannon to a Trump appointee in the tank for Republicans, I take it with a lot of skepticism.

And yet, there is something very weird going on here. I don’t know if it comes from inexperience (she only had 14 trial days over four cases in this position before this one), political bias (the defendant in the case is the person who appointed her), or something else, but Judge Cannon really does seem to be showing some favoritism.

Take one major example: Trump's team started this case by arguing that he had executive privilege over all the material the FBI took from Mar-a-Lago. They asked Judge Cannon to appoint an independent arbiter to go through the material to separate the innocuous documents from the highly sensitive ones, effectively asking her to freeze the FBI's investigation. When Trump’s team took this legal strategy, its absurdity was widely panned — even by conservative legal pundits like Trump's former Attorney General William Barr — and Cannon… obliged.

The ridiculousness of her decision is not some liberal talking point. The appellate court that oversees her, the 11th Circuit, forcefully overturned that ruling and explicitly said that she had violated the principle of the rule of law by making an exception for a former president. But the practical effect was delay. The decision, Smith's need to fight it, and the wait for the appellate court to rule on it bogged the case down and signaled to Trump's legal team that she would be receptive to slapdash challenges. 

Trump’s legal team got the message. Once the actual indictment was filed, they started throwing everything they could at the case. New York Times reporter Alan Feuer described their tactics as "burying her in paper," saying Trump's lawyers were "leveraging both her inexperience and some sort of prior indication by her that she is willing to entertain unorthodox arguments." Among other things, Trump's team has tried to argue that the documents fall under the Presidential Records Act because Trump took them, which is proof he's decided they are personal (despite some of the documents containing information about nuclear weapons and war plans, according to the indictment). Again: A far-fetched, widely panned argument — and one that Cannon continued to entertain.

Others have made the point (and I’ve agreed) that the classified documents case is the most straightforward and “slam dunk” case of the ones Trump faces. This trial is the worst-case scenario indictment for Trump, with hard evidence, lots of details, damning witnesses, and an alleged cover-up to boot (and yes, as I’ve laid out before, Trump’s case is very different from the Clinton’s, Joe Biden’s, or Mike Pence’s). But I never expected the judge overseeing this case to derail it or slow-walk it to this degree.

I’m not sure where we go from here. Smith can try to get Cannon removed from the case, but that seems likely to fail and certain to delay things further. The trial is already unlikely to even start before the presidential election, and if Trump wins we can be sure he’ll appoint a new attorney general and the charges against him will be dropped. For now, it seems Trump’s legal strategy is working to perfection, and anyone hoping for a definitive trial is going to be disappointed.

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Your questions, answered.

Q: In the reader survey section of the newsletter, have you noticed a strong correlation between your take and the option that matches your take the best? Have you seen where the majority of responses were the opposite of your take?

— Eric from Holly Springs, NC

Tangle: Yes, we’ve definitely noticed a strong correlation between what I say in “My take” and the responses we get to the reader survey. One of our readers even called it a “persuasion survey” because of this. But before I answer your second question, I want to briefly explain the decision to place the survey where we have it currently — right after “My take.”

First of all, readers usually come to us with their own beliefs and biases already. After getting a dose of what the left and right are saying, most people have a way that they’re leaning or a thought mostly formed. “My take” was always meant to be just another voice among the perspectives we share, though it is of course longer and more in-depth than any other article we quote. At the same time, I appreciate that I’ve earned a lot of goodwill with the Tangle readership over the years, so my writing often nudges someone on the fence or leaning one way in a certain direction, and that shows up in the survey results.

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We enjoy knowing readers are engaged, and we really like seeing which way you all lean and how you are understanding the news. To your second question, a few times recently the readership has leaned away from me: I supported reclassifying marijuana, but our readers preferred fully legalizing it. I supported a ceasefire in Gaza, but our readers favored a full military action in Rafah. There is a correlation between my opinion and the reader responses, yes, but my opinion is far from the final word.

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Under the radar.

A federal judge has blocked the Biden administration's proposed rule change that would have prohibited credit card companies from charging customers late fees of over $8. Judge Mark T. Pittman, a Trump appointee, granted a preliminary injunction to several business and banking organizations who had sued over the rule, arguing it violated federal statutes. The rule was set to go into effect on Tuesday and would have saved consumers about $10 billion per year by cutting fees from an average of $32, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. CNN has the story.


  • 340. The number of days since the original indictment against Donald Trump in the classified documents case was issued. 
  • 4. The number of criminal trials overseen by Judge Cannon prior to the classified documents case.
  • 18%. The percentage of Americans who think Trump did nothing wrong in his handling of classified documents, according to an April 2024 poll from AP-NORC.
  • 15%. The percentage of Americans who think Trump acted unethically but not illegally in his handling of classified documents. 
  • 43%. The percentage of Americans who said the charges against Trump in this case should disqualify him from the presidency in August 2023, according to a CNN/SSRS poll. 
  • 38%. The percentage of Americans who said the charges against Trump in this case should disqualify him from the presidency in April 2024. 
  • 24%. The percentage of Americans who say they support Trump over Joe Biden in the 2024 election but might reconsider if he is convicted of a crime. 

The extras.

  • One year ago today we had just covered the end of Title 42.
  • The most clicked link in Thursday’s newsletter was the story of RFK Jr’s brain parasite.
  • Nothing to do with politics: Pictures of the northern lights this past weekend… from Florida.
  • Thursday’s survey: 1,041 readers answered our survey on the Rafah invasion with 40% supporting a full military action. “Let’s hope this is a situation where things have to get worse before they get better,” one respondent said.

Have a nice day.

Monoculture in fisheries has been a common practice of specialization meant to help aquaculturists be more efficient. However, the practice can be harmful to economic and environmental sustainability. Recently in Thailand, polyculture practices — like raising fish and shrimp together — that have been less commonly practiced are starting to gain traction. Polyculture systems have been shown to reduce waste and improve growth efficiency while simultaneously yielding higher profits for farmers — an economic and environmental win-win. “I’ve had this farm for 30 years and I’ve always mixed from the beginning. I copied from another farmer, it looked like it worked so that’s why I did it,” says polyculturist Somporn Kaikaew. Reasons to Be Cheerful has the story.

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.