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Judge denies Trump's motion to dismiss documents case

Trump motions to dismiss 2 cases denied
Trump's motions to dismiss two pending criminal cases denied 05:27

Washington — A federal judge in Florida denied former President Donald Trump's motion to dismiss the classified documents indictment against him, ruling the Presidential Records Act (PRA) does not shield Trump from charges that he unlawfully retained national defense information. 

In a brief order issued Thursday, Cannon rejected Trump's argument that a 1978 recordkeeping law used to manage official White House records during each presidential administration, the Presidential Records Act (PRA),  should prevent the special counsel's case from moving forward. 

Special counsel Jack Smith charged Trump in a 40-count indictment that includes 32 alleged violations of a national security law known as the Espionage Act, which makes it illegal to mishandle national defense information. The FBI ultimately recovered from Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence over 300 sensitive government records, which prosecutors accused him of illegally keeping. 

Trump is charged with illegally retaining 32 of the records. He has pleaded not guilty and denied all wrongdoing. 

Attorneys for the former president argued in their motion earlier this year that the PRA "precludes judicial review" over a president's recordkeeping and that the PRA granted Trump "unreviewable discretion" over classified records.

In her order Thursday, Cannon noted the charges against Trump "make no reference to the Presidential Records Act," and they don't rely on the statute for any of the offenses with which Trump is charged. 

"The Superseding Indictment specifies the nature of the accusations against Defendant Trump in a lengthy speaking indictment with embedded excerpts from investigative interviews, photographs, and other content," Cannon wrote. "Accepting the allegations of the Superseding Indictment as true, the Presidential Records Act does not provide a pre-trial basis to dismiss." 

The ruling comes days after both Trump and Smith complied with an order from Judge Cannon to write hypothetical jury instructions that directly address the PRA and how potential jurors should engage with the law. 

In a somewhat forceful rebuke of Cannon's request, prosecutors for the special counsel warned that including the law in the instructions risked jeopardizing the proceedings, and signaled they would appeal the her decision if she ruled against them.

Prosecutors wrote that Cannon's requested instructions "rest on an unstated and fundamentally flawed legal premise." Any jury instructions that include the PRA risked "distort[ing] the trial," they said.  

The judge responded to their criticism, calling Smith's request that she finalize jury instructions ahead of trial "unprecedented and unjust." 

She wrote her previous order requesting proposed jury instructions "should not be misconstrued as declaring a final definition on any essential element or asserted defense in this case."

Nor should it 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." 

For his part, the former president proposed his own jury instructions, suggesting that Cannon tell jurors that Trump was authorized to access the classified records during his presidency and that some precedents allow for former presidents to access certain documents. 

"There is no basis for the Special Counsel's Office, this Court, or a jury to second-guess President Trump's document-specific PRA categorizations." 

Cannon has yet to set a date for the case to go to trial. 

Trump is also charged along with two of his aides as part of an alleged scheme to obstruct the federal probe. The co-defendants, Walt Nauta and Carlos de Oliveira, also pleaded not guilty. 

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