Sen. Marco Rubio, Judge Aileen Cannon and Donald Trump: Love triangle?

Marco Rubio once called Trump "dangerous." Now he's the Mar-a-Lago judge's benefactor and biggest defender

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer

Published September 11, 2022 6:00AM (EDT)

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to supporters at a campaign stop on the Keep Florida Free Tour at the Horsepower Ranch in Geneva.  (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to supporters at a campaign stop on the Keep Florida Free Tour at the Horsepower Ranch in Geneva. (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., appears to be a major booster of Judge Aileen Cannon, who recently made the controversial ruling granting former Donald Trump's request for an independent review of the documents seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago. Cannon is a federal district judge appointed by Trump, and Rubio may be eager for the former president's support in his unexpectedlu tight re-election race against Rep. Val Demings, a Democrat. 

Rubio has rejected claims that Cannon's decision in the Mar-a-Lago case was politically motivated, although many legal experts — including conservatives like former Attorney General Bill Barr — have strongly criticized the ruling. Rubio has also  emphasized the bipartisan support Cannon received leading up to her nomination and confirmation vote.

Rubio appears to have served as Cannon's sponsor, asking her to apply for the judicial nomination in 2019 and also created the bipartisan Florida judicial advisory commission that vetted Cannon's background, alongside other potential nominee candidates. Cannon was confirmed by a bipartisan Senate vote on Nov. 12, 2020, barely a week after Trump lost the presidential election. 

Cannon's ruling in favor of Trump's request for a special master to review the seized documents has been widely criticized for appearing to offer special treatment to the ex-president and delaying the Justice Department's ongoing criminal investigation.

Her decision is "not well-founded in any law or legal theory" and has included "far better advocacy for the former president's legal position than anything his actual lawyers put forward," prominent national-security lawyer Bradley Moss told NBC News.

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Rubio, however, has staunchly defended Cannon's decision, telling Breitbart that the "attacks against her are just the latest example of hypocrisy from leftists and their media enablers who believe the only time it is acceptable to attack a judge is if that judge rules against what they want."

Rubio has also criticized the DOJ investigation into Trump, calling it politically motivated and comparing it to events in "third world Marxist dictatorships." That position could be politically advantageous in terms of Rubio's relationship to Trump and his campaign against Demings, who has been within a few points of Rubio in recent opinion polls. Rubio is also the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which will almost certainly be briefed on any national security issues emerging from the Mar-a-Lago search. 

Rubio strongly supported the FBI's 2016 investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state. Apparently the presence of classified information in Trump's home does not alarm the Florida senator, who suggested in an interview with NBC 6 that he doesn't think "a fight over storage of documents is worthy" of the FBI's "full-scale raid." 

Rubio expressed a much different attitude toward Trump when both were 2016 GOP presidential candidates, warning voters that Trump was "reckless and dangerous." More recently, he has said little or nothing about the former president's conspiracy theories regarding the 2016 election or his suggestion that Jan. 6 rioters should be pardoned, let alone his dubious handling of classified documents.

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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2022 Midterms Aileen Cannon Brief Donald Trump Justice Department Mar-a-lago Marco Rubio