Judge Denies Trump's Attempt To Dismiss Classified Documents Case

The Presidential Records Act "does not provide a pre-trial basis to dismiss" the charges, the Trump-appointed judge ruled.
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A U.S. District judge on Thursday denied former President Donald Trump’s efforts to have his classified documents case dismissed based on the Presidential Records Act.

Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, said the federal records law “does not provide a pre-trial basis to dismiss” the dozens of charges against the former president, who’s accused of violating the Espionage Act with his mishandling of the highly classified documents that he took to his private residence in Florida after leaving the White House.

Lawyers for Trump, the presumed GOP nominee for president, argued that the Presidential Records Act allowed Trump to maintain custody of the documents, several of which were marked top secret and concerned matters of national security. The federal law requires presidents to turn over records to the National Archives at the end of their term, but allows them to hold on to personal documents, such as diary entries and medical records.

The charges against Trump, Cannon wrote in her three-page order, “make no reference to the Presidential Records Act, nor do they rely on that statute for purposes of stating an offense.”

Trump pleaded not guilty to all 40 charges against him in this case and denounced the prosecution as leading a “witch hunt.”

Cannon’s ruling comes two days after special counsel Jack Smith, who led the investigation into Trump’s mishandling of documents, raised concern that a recent order from Cannon on jury instructions appeared to give credence to Trump’s claims about protections from the Presidential Records Act, often referred to as the PRA.

“That legal premise is wrong, and a jury instruction … that reflects that premise would distort the trial,” Smith’s team wrote to the court, urging Cannon to rule on Trump’s claims.

“The PRA’s distinction between personal and presidential records has no bearing on whether a former President’s possessions of documents containing national defense information is authorized under the Espionage Act, and the PRA should play no role in the jury instructions,” Smith’s team continued.

Cannon defended herself against Smith’s concerns in her order Thursday, writing that her previous order “should not be misconstrued as declaring a final definition on any essential element or asserted defense in this case.”

Last month, Cannon rejected another attempt by Trump to throw out the case on constitutional grounds.

The judge has come under fire from critics who say she’s allowed what seemed like a straightforward case to drag on. Although Trump was indicted nearly 10 months ago, Cannon has yet to set a firm trial date.

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