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Judge holds hearing on Trump's request to dismiss classified documents case

Judge holds hearing on Trump's request to dismiss classified documents case
Judge holds hearing on Trump's request to dismiss classified documents case


FORT PIERCE, Florida. Lawyers for former President Donald Trump are expected to argue in federal court Friday that the classified documents case against him should be thrown out because the lead prosecutor in the case was improperly named.

This long-term argument relies on a legal premise advanced in some conservative circles that the Senate should have approved Attorney General Merrick Garland's appointment of special counsel Jack Smith, who is overseeing federal investigations against Trump.

Smith's team called that argument false and said Garland clearly had the authority to appoint attorneys to carry out Justice Department functions. Similar challenges launched against other recent special counsels, including Robert S. Mueller III, have been rejected in court.

The preliminary hearing is the first of five hearings scheduled by U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon over three days. Several sessions are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, including one on whether Smith's position is legally funded.

The hearings reflect Cannon's tendency to allow in-person arguments on many of the minor, incremental legal issues she must decide, creating a backlog of key decisions and delaying the start of Trump's trial.

It is common for defense attorneys to file every possible motion to dismiss or delay charges against their clients. But judges typically rule on many of them without holding hearings, which are typically reserved for the largest, most viable motions.

Although Cannon largely ruled against Trump's motions, the timing of her decisions favored the former president, who argued that any trial should take place after the November presidential election in which he is the Republican nominee presumed.

Trump faces dozens of charges for mishandling classified information after his presidency ended and for conspiring with two aides to obstruct government efforts to recover equipment from Mar-a-Lago, his home and private club in Palm Beach, Florida. He pleaded not guilty.

Cannon, a Trump nominee who has served on the bench since late 2020, had scheduled Trump's trial for May, but as the trial began, May postponed the trial indefinitely. It now seems unlikely that the trial can take place before the elections.

The judge invited outsiders not involved in the case, known as amici, to present their arguments Friday on the question of the constitutionality of Smith's nomination. Lawyers from the Landmark Legal Foundation, a conservative legal advocacy group, are expected to attend.

Trump is not required to attend.

Smith is also overseeing the separate federal case accusing Trump in Washington of his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. That case is on pause while the Supreme Court settles the question of whether presidential immunity from criminal prosecution applies. extends to the allegations federal prosecutors made against him in the D.C. indictment. A decision from the country's highest court could be handed down any day.

Trump also faces a case in Georgia over allegations he tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election in that state. That case is on pause as an attempt to disqualify the prosecutor in the case makes its way through the state's appeals courts.

Last month, a New York jury found Trump guilty of violating state laws by falsifying business records to conceal secret money payments to a porn actress to influence the 2016 presidential election.

At a separate hearing Monday, Cannon is expected to hear arguments on a request by prosecutors to stop Trump from making further inflammatory allegations falsely suggesting that FBI agents were complicit in a plot to assassinate him.

On Tuesday, Trump's lawyers will try to convince Cannon to disqualify the use at trial of audio notes that investigators obtained from one of his lawyers, Evan Corcoran.

Trump said attorney-client privilege should apply to these recordings, which contain significant potential evidence of his alleged obstruction of the government's efforts to recover highly classified documents from Mar-a-Lago. Prosecutors argue that audio notes are exempt from this privilege because of the felony fraud exception, under which communications that may have participated in the commission of a crime cannot be protected. A federal appeals court in Washington agreed with that argument last year and required Corcoran to turn over his notes and other evidence to prosecutors.

Also Tuesday, Cannon will consider Trump's request for what's known as a Frank hearing. This is a hearing to determine whether investigators falsified aspects of the affidavit they used to obtain a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago and, if so, whether the evidence collected during the execution of the warrant must be excluded from the trial.

Trump argued that investigators misled the judge who approved the warrant on at least four occasions, including by failing to mention that Trump, like all presidents, did not have a formal security clearance and that he had legal access to classified documents while in office. .

There is generally a high legal threshold for holding a Franks hearing. Cannon said she will schedule one at a later date if she feels it is warranted.

This story will be updated during or after Friday's hearing.




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