Judge Cannon rejects a bid by Trump to dismiss criminal charges in classified documents case

Judge Cannon rejects a bid by Trump to dismiss criminal charges in classified documents case



A federal judge will not grant a request to dismiss the charges in the classified documents case put forward by former President Donald Trump, who argued that he had the authority to take classified or sensitive documents with him after he left the White House.

The short order from US District Judge Aileen Cannon on Thursday leaves open the possibility that Trump could still use the argument that he was authorized to keep the documents under the Presidential Records Act to defend himself at trial or could bring it up in other pre-trial proceedings.

Cannon didn’t detail her views on the claims Trump is making about the PRA but said Trump’s attorneys did not meet the legal standard to dismiss charges. She wrote that prosecutors “make no reference to the Presidential Records Act” in the indictment against Trump and did not “rely” on the statute to bring charges.

The judge also pushed back against special counsel Jack Smith’s request that she make a final ruling on whether the theory can be used at trial, so that prosecutors could appeal to the 11th Circuit. She said that “demand” was “unprecedented and unjust.”

Smith made the request when Cannon ordered both sides to submit hypothetical jury instructions that would take into account Trump’s claims of sweeping record-retention authority.

Cannon defended that exercise in Thursday’s order, saying it should not “be interpreted as anything other than what it was: a genuine attempt, in the context of the upcoming trial, to better understand the parties’ competing positions and the questions to be submitted to the jury in this complex case of first impression.”

The post-Watergate PRA governs how records are handled after an administration ends, including the turnover of presidential records to the National Archives. Trump has claimed that under the law, he had the ultimate authority to decide which documents are his personal records that he’s allowed to keep in his possession.

In a hearing last month, Cannon was skeptical of Trump’s claim of unlimited power to decide which documents needed to be returned to the Archives under the PRA. She said that that while Trump’s lawyers made some “forceful” arguments about the law’s scope that could be effective in front of a jury, their arguments seemed premature at this phase of the case.

Prosecutors have maintained that the PRA is not relevant to the charges.

There are still more than a dozen outstanding motions for Cannon to decide, including several other motions to dismiss the case.


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