Trump arrives at the Florida courthouse to hear whether his case over classified documents should be dismissed

(Uncredited / Associated Press)

Trump arrives at the Florida courthouse to hear whether his case over classified documents should be dismissed

Election 2024


March 14, 2024

Donald Trump arrived at a federal courthouse in Florida on Thursday, where a judge will hear arguments on whether to dismiss the criminal case accusing the former president of hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he had left the White House.

The motorcade carrying the Republican presumptive 2024 presidential nominee arrived shortly before the hearing was set to begin before U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who was nominated to the court by Trump.

The dispute centers on the Trump team’s interpretation of the Presidential Records Act, which they say gave him the authority to declare the documents personal and keep them after his presidency.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team, on the other hand, says that the files Trump is accused of possessing are presidential documents, not personal documents, and that the statute does not apply to classified and top-secret documents such as those kept at his estate at Mar-a-Lago. in Florida.

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The Presidential Records Act “does not absolve Trump from criminal justice, give him the right to unilaterally declare highly classified presidential records personal records, nor protect him from criminal investigation, let alone obstruct a federal investigation with impunity.” , prosecutors wrote in a report. lawsuit last week.

It was not clear when Cannon might rule, but the outcome will determine whether the case moves forward or, as Trump’s lawyers hope, is dismissed before it ever reaches the jury, a rare action a judge can take.

Cannon is also expected to hear arguments Thursday on a separate but related motion from the Trump team, which says the statute that forms the bulk of the criminal charges, making it a crime to intentionally conceal national defense information is unconstitutionally vague because it applies to a former president.

It’s not surprising that attorneys want to dismiss the case under the Presidential Records Act, as the legal team has repeatedly invoked the statute since the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago in August 2022.

The law, which was enacted in 1978, requires that presidents upon leaving office turn over their presidential archives to the U.S. government, for specific management, the National Archives and Records Administration, although they are permitted to retain personal documents, including diaries and notes that are purely private and not prepared for government business.

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Trump’s lawyers have said he has classified the documents he took to Mar-a-Lago as personal property. According to prosecutors, these documents contain top secret information and documents related to nuclear programs and the military capabilities of the US and foreign adversaries.

Cannon has suggested in the past that she sees Trump’s status as a former president as something that sets him apart from others who have kept classified data.

After the Trump team sued the Justice Department in 2022 to get his data back, Cannon appointed a special master to conduct an independent review of the documents collected during the FBI’s search for Mar-a -Lago. That appointment was later overturned by a federal appeals court.

More recently, while ruling in favor of Smith’s team on a procedural issue, Cannon pointedly described the case as the first-ever criminal prosecution of a former president of the United States, once the nation’s top classification authority on many of the documents the special prosecutor is now seeking. to remember him [and his cleared counsel] in a case without charge for transmission or delivery of national defense information.”

Full coverage: Former President Trump pleads not guilty to classified documents charges

Trump faces 40 felony charges in Florida accusing him of voluntarily withholding dozens of classified documents and rejecting government demands to return them after he leaves the White House. Prosecutors have highlighted in recent court filings the extent of criminal conduct they say they expect to prove at trial, saying in one case that there has never been a case in U.S. history in which a former official has been guilty committed to behavior remotely similar to Trump’s.

For example, they allege that Trump deliberately retained some of the country’s most sensitive documents and returned only a fraction of them at the request of the National Archives, and then urged his attorney to hide documents and file them against the FBI lying by saying he no longer was. in possession of it. He is also accused of hiring staff to delete surveillance footage showing boxes of documents being moved around the property.

The hearing is the second this month in the Florida case, one of four prosecutions Trump faces in his bid to reclaim the White House this year. Cannon heard arguments on March 1 about when a trial date should be set, but did not immediately rule. Both sides have proposed summer dates for the trial to begin.

Tucker, Durkin and Spencer write for the Associated Press.


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