Judge rejects Trump’s latest request to dismiss prosecution over classified documents

(Uncredited / Associated Press)

Judge rejects Trump’s latest request to dismiss prosecution over classified documents

Erik Tukker

April 4, 2024

A federal judge has refused to destroy the classified documents brought against Donald Trump, casting aside defense arguments that a decades-old law allowed the former president to keep the sensitive documents after he left office.

Lawyers for Trump had cited a 1978 statute known as the Presidential Records Act in demanding that the case, one of four against the presumptive Republican nominee, be dismissed before trial. That law requires presidents to turn over presidential records to the federal government when they leave office, but allows them to keep purely personal papers.

Prosecutors from Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team countered that law was not relevant to a case involving mishandling of classified documents and said the documents Trump allegedly hoarded at his Mar-a-Lago estate and resort were undoubtedly presidential documents and not personal documents. files, and therefore had to be returned to the government when Trump left the White House in January 2021.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who heard arguments on the issue last month, allowed the case to proceed Thursday in a three-page order dismissing the Trump team’s claims.

She wrote that the 40-count indictment against Trump makes no reference to the Presidential Records Act, nor does it rely on that statute to commit a violation.

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represents a modest victory for Smith’s team, which has tried to take the accuser to court this year while expressing growing frustration, including earlier this week, with Cannon’s oversight of the case. Other motions by Trump to dismiss the charges remain unresolved by the judge, the trial date is in flux and additional legal disputes have delayed the case’s progress.

In Thursday’s ruling, Cannon also defended an order from last month that asked attorneys for both sides to formulate potential jury instructions and respond to two different scenarios in which they appeared to continue entertaining Trump’s argument.

The order drew a sharp rebuke from Smith’s team, with prosecutors in a filing this week calling the properties she constructed fundamentally flawed and warning they were prepared to appeal if she followed through with jury instructions that they were deemed wrong.

The Court’s order seeking preliminary guidance on certain issues should not be misconstrued as a final definition of an essential element or defense in this case, Cannon wrote. Nor should it be interpreted as anything other than what it was: a genuine attempt, in the context of the upcoming trial, to explain the competing positions of the parties and the questions to be presented to the jury in this complex case of first impression easier to understand.

Thursday’s ruling marks the second time in as many months that the judge has denied one of Trump’s requests to drop the case. In March, she made the argument that the statute underlying the majority of the charges was unconstitutionally vague and therefore required the charges to be dismissed.

Cannon has yet to rule on other attempts by Trump to dismiss the case, including arguments that presidential immunity protects him from prosecution and that he is subject to selective and vindictive prosecution.

Trump faces dozens of criminal charges related to the mishandling of classified documents, according to an indictment alleging he improperly shared a Pentagon attack plan and a secret map related to a military operation.

The case was initially scheduled to go to trial on May 20, but Cannon heard arguments last month about a new date without immediately setting one. Both sides have said they could be ready for a trial this summer, although defense lawyers have said Trump should not be forced to stand trial with the election looming.

Smith’s team has separately accused Trump of plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, a case that has been delayed by a Supreme Court review of his arguments that he is immune from federal prosecution. Fulton County Prosecutors G


a., have also accused Trump of trying to undermine the election in that state, although it remains unclear when that case will go to trial.

Jury selection will take place on April 15 in the hush money trial against Trump in New York.

That case centers on allegations that Trump falsified his company’s internal records to conceal the true nature of payments to his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who helped Trump bury negative stories during his 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen paid porn actor, among others Stormy Daniels $130,000 to suppress her claims of an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump years earlier.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied having a sexual encounter.

Tucker writes for the Associated Press. AP writer Alanna Durkin Richer contributed to this report.


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