Judge Cannon rejects Trump’s bid to dismiss classified documents case


U.S. District Court Judge Aileen M. Cannon on Thursday rejected Donald Trump’s bid to have his charges of mishandling classified documents dismissed on the grounds that a federal records law protected him from prosecution. The judge also defended her handling of the issue, which had frustrated prosecutors.

Trump’s defense team argued the Presidential Records Act took priority over the Espionage Act when it came to highly classified documents that he took to his private residence in Florida after his presidency. On Thursday, Cannon shot down that argument, saying the PRA “does not provide a pre-trial basis to dismiss” either the mishandling charges or the related obstruction charges against Trump.

The decision comes two days after special counsel Jack Smith made a court filing saying the judge was pursuing a legal premise about the PRA that was “wrong” and urged her to rule, adding that if she decided otherwise, he wanted to appeal any such decision quickly.

The back-and-forth came after Cannon ordered prosecutors and defense lawyers to submit proposed jury instructions — the final version of which are delivered to jurors at the end of a trial, just before deliberations — that seemed to largely adopt Trump’s interpretation of the PRA.

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In her three-page order, Cannon defended her order and pushed back against Smith’s challenge to it. She wrote that “to the extent the Special Counsel demands an anticipatory finalization of jury instructions prior to trial, prior to a charge conference, and prior to the presentation of trial defenses and evidence, the Court declines that demand as unprecedented and unjust.”

She said her original request for the proposed jury instructions “should not be misconstrued as declaring a final definition on any essential element or asserted defense in this case.”

Instead, she said, 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.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.



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