March 15, 2024

Judge Cannon Dismisses Trump Motion to Drop Classified Docs Charges

U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon on Thursday dismissed a motion by former President Trump to drop charges of retaining classified documents, citing "unconstitutional vagueness" as the basis for dismissal.

This motion represents one of two presented by Trump's legal team. The judge has yet to rule on the second motion, which challenges the charges under the Presidential Records Act (PRA).

During proceedings, defense attorney Todd Blanche argued that the PRA grants the president the authority to retain documents as he deems appropriate, including removing them from the White House premises.

Blanche contended that if this interpretation holds, it would undermine Special Counsel Jack Smith's indictment. He noted historical precedent, stating that presidents have historically removed materials from the White House, and emphasized that the PRA does not empower the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to contest a president's classification of documents as personal or presidential.

Furthermore, Trump's legal team asserted that NARA's challenge to the president's decision regarding document classification is unprecedented and seemingly politically motivated.

Blanche highlighted that this is the first instance of NARA disputing a president's classification decision and suggested bias against Trump as the motivating factor.

In response, Judge Cannon acknowledged the validity of these arguments but indicated that they may be more appropriate for trial rather than grounds for dismissal.

She emphasized the need for the government to prove unauthorized possession of the documents and questioned how the arguments presented would lead to a dismissal of the indictment.

Cannon expressed concern that the Trump defense team's interpretation of the PRA could undermine its intent, granting presidents unchecked authority to classify documents arbitrarily. Blanche countered, stating that any changes to the law should be pursued through Congress rather than the Department of Justice.

Both sides also addressed the nature of the documents seized, with DOJ prosecutor David Harbach asserting that they were presidential rather than personal. Harbach stressed the independence of Special Counsel Smith's team from the Biden Administration, refuting any suggestion of political influence.

The judge's decision on the remaining motion and further proceedings remain pending as Trump continues his comeback bid for president.

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