Fact Check

Was the Judge Assigned to Trump's Classified Documents Case Photographed at His Rally?

A tongue-in-cheek photo caption apparently confused a number of social media users.

Published June 12, 2023

 (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Image courtesy of Spencer Platt/Getty Images
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who was assigned to oversee the federal criminal case against former U.S. President Donald Trump regarding the alleged mishandling of classified documents, was photographed at a September 2022 rally hosted by Trump.

In June 2023, after a judge was assigned to former U.S. President Donald Trump's federal criminal case in connection with his alleged mishandling of top secret documents after leaving office, allegations that she might show favoritism toward Trump swirled online. 

Trump had appointed Judge Aileen M. Cannon to the U.S. District Court bench in 2020, during the final months of his presidency. In 2022, Cannon intervened in the ongoing investigation into Trump's handling of classified documents by issuing a ruling that barred the government from using any of the pertinent documents as part of a criminal investigation, and by granting Trump's request to appoint a special master to review them. Her ruling was rebuked by a federal appeals court in December 2022, allowing the Justice Department to use the documents in their inquiry.  

After she was assigned to Trump's case in June 2023, a photograph taken at a September 2022 Trump rally went viral along with allegations that Cannon was one of two women in the photograph proudly proclaiming their support for the ex-president: 

However, the claim that Cannon is one of the two subjects of the photo is false. The mistaken identification likely stemmed from a Slate article that appeared almost a year earlier, in September 2022, that featured the identical photo with a caption that read, "Trump rallygoers, or members of the judiciary? It's hard to say."

(Screenshot via Slate)

When first published, the article itself, which argued that flaws in the system had allowed Cannon intervene in the case in 2022, did not clarify who the women in the photo actually were. However, on June 12, 2023, Slate revised the caption and added an update notice to the article that read (emphasis added), "This caption originally read: 'Trump rallygoers, or members of the judiciary? It's hard to say.' It has been updated to reflect the fact that these are not members of the judiciary.'"

The photograph was taken by Getty Images photographer Spencer Platt at a rally hosted by Trump in Pennsylvania in September 2022. Getty's caption did not identify the women in the photo, stating instead: "People gather to hear former president Donald Trump speak as he endorses local candidates at the Mohegan Sun Arena on September 03, 2022 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Trump still denies that he lost the election against President Joe Biden and has encouraged his supporters to doubt the election process. Trump has backed Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and gubernatorial hopeful Doug Mastriano." 

We reached out to Getty Images in an attempt to determine the identity of the women in the photograph. A spokesperson told us, "... we can confirm that the image was taken on September 3, 2022 at a campaign rally hosted by former president Donald Trump in Pennsylvania. The photographer did not get the names of the women in the frame. All available details are included in the caption on our website." 

We also reached out to Platt and the Florida District Court office and will update this post if we get more information.

Platt spoke to Newsweek about the photograph and said that he could not recall taking the photo, as it was a while back. "That said, I highly doubt it was her as I always ask permission and can't believe a judge would agree. I think this is people getting all worked up," he said. 

Given that we have no actual evidence connecting this photograph to Cannon, that Getty Images could not provide names for the women in the picture, and the original Slate caption was amended to stipulate that the women were not members of the judiciary, we rate this claim "Miscaptioned."


Eisen, Norman L., et al. "Aileen Cannon's Previous Rulings About Trump Demand Her Recusal." Slate, 12 June 2023. slate.com, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2023/06/trump-indictment-remove-judge-aileen-cannon.html. Accessed 12 June 2023.

Feuer, Alan, and Charlie Savage. "Appeals Court Scraps Special Master Review in Trump Documents Case." The New York Times, 1 Dec. 2022. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/01/us/politics/trump-special-master.html. Accessed 12 June 2023.

"Justice Department Urges Court to Stay out of Mar-a-Lago Documents Dispute." SCOTUSblog, 11 Oct. 2022, https://www.scotusblog.com/2022/10/justice-department-urges-court-to-stay-out-of-mar-a-lago-documents-dispute/.

Kuklychev, Yevgeny. "Was Mar-a-Lago Case Judge Aileen Cannon Pictured Wearing 'Team Trump' Hat?" Newsweek, 12 June 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/was-mar-lago-judge-aileen-cannon-wearing-team-trump-hat-1805906. Accessed 12 June 2023.

Lithwick, Dahlia, and Mark Joseph Stern. "The Solution to the Trump Judge Problem Nobody Wants to Talk About." Slate, 6 Sept. 2022. slate.com, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2022/09/trump-judge-aileen-cannon-court-reform.html. Accessed 12 June 2023.

"People Gather to Hear Former President Donald Trump Speak as He..." Getty Images, https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/people-gather-to-hear-former-president-donald-trump-speak-news-photo/1420565886. Accessed 12 June 2023.

Savage, Charlie. "A Trump-Appointed Judge Who Showed Him Favor Gets the Documents Case." The New York Times, 9 June 2023. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/09/us/politics/trump-documents-judge-aileen-cannon.html. Accessed 12 June 2023.

"Trump Federal Indictment: What Happens Next?" ABC News, https://abcnews.go.com/US/trump-federal-indictment/story?id=99972568. Accessed 12 June 2023.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.