Judge Rejects Trump Motion to Dismiss Documents Case

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee on April 4 denied former President Donald Trump’s motion to dismiss an indictment under the First Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has denied former President Donald Trump’s motion to dismiss an indictment alleging he mishandled classified documents, based on the Presidential Records Act.

“Bound by the four corners of the Superseding Indictment,” the charges in the indictment “make no reference to the Presidential Records Act, nor do they rely on that statute for purposes of stating an offense,” the judge wrote in an April 4 order.

President Trump brought a total of four motions to dismiss charges in this case on different bases, and the judge heard oral arguments on two of the motions in March. Hours after the hearing, she denied the motion to dismiss based on unconstitutional vagueness.

The Presidential Records Act defense was also argued at the March 14 hearing, with the judge expressing skepticism that the challenge was being brought in the appropriate form.

President Trump is being charged under a law that makes it illegal to have unauthorized possession of documents related to national defense. The Presidential Records Act doesn’t make any mention of how national defense or classified information should be treated.

Judge Cannon had said that those arguments—which she interpreted as a dispute of facts—should be made in connection with jury instructions.

Opening the door for such arguments to be made in court, she ordered the parties to submit jury instructions that contemplated competing scenarios of whether President Trump was able to designate the files in his possession as “personal” under the Presidential Records Act.

Prosecutors denounced the judge for this order. In their required April 2 filing of the hypothetical jury instructions, they argued the judge used a “fundamentally flawed legal premise” and that the judge hadn’t correctly applied the law.

They argued for the finalization of jury instructions before a charge conference and presentation of evidence and defenses, which the judge rejected in the April 4 order as “unprecedented and unjust.”

“The Court’s Order soliciting preliminary draft instructions on certain counts should not be misconstrued as declaring a final definition on any essential element or asserted defense in this case,” she wrote.

“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.”

Prosecutors had cited a case in which an appeals court found that a “clearly erroneous jury instruction” warranted an order to a lower court to remedy the error.

Judge Cannon suggested that prosecutors could appeal or seek higher court review if they believed she was wrong about the law, writing that any party was “free to avail itself of whatever appellate options it sees fit to invoke, as permitted by law.”

Jury Instruction Exercise

In the defense’s jury instructions, they wrote that President Trump had received classified briefings and reviewed related classified documents in several private locations outside the White House, including his residence in Bedminster, New Jersey, and Trump Tower in New York.

They argued that under the Presidential Records Act, President Trump had sole discretion to designate any documents in his possession as personal and that by taking documents out of the White House after his term in office, he had designated those documents personal and therefore had the authorization to have them.

Prosecutors argued that the Presidential Records Act has nothing to do with the indictment and that Judge Cannon was wrong in her interpretation that this was a dispute of fact, rather than law.

They urged the judge to “promptly” decide whether she was reading the Presidential Records Act as relevant to the indictment so that the prosecutors could seek review “before jeopardy attaches.”

Prosecutors argued that the judge’s withholding of such a decision was injecting “substantial delay into trial” and blocked their ability to seek review.

From The Epoch Times

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