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Prosecutors in Trump’s Classified Documents Case Criticize Judge’s Unconventional and ‘Faulty’ Directive

Donald J Trump (Credits: CNN)

Federal prosecutors criticized the judge overseeing the case involving former President Trump’s classified documents in Florida. They cautioned her against potential jury instructions that they argued were based on a “fundamentally flawed legal premise.”

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon had requested prosecutors and defense lawyers to draft proposed jury instructions for most of the charges despite the uncertainty surrounding the trial’s timeline.

She asked them to address two scenarios where she seemed to accept Trump’s argument regarding the Presidential Records Act (PRA), which he claims entitled him to retain the sensitive documents he is accused of possessing.

Donald J Trump (Credits: Reuters)

Prosecutors expressed concern, stating that the 1978 law, which requires presidents to return presidential records upon leaving office but allows them to keep personal ones, is irrelevant to a case involving highly classified documents like those allegedly stored by Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

They argued that these records were not personal, and there is no evidence that Trump designated them as such. Prosecutors also highlighted that witnesses interviewed during the investigation had not heard Trump claim that he designated records as personal under the PRA.

Special counsel Jack Smith‘s team stated that if the judge insists on referencing the presidential records law in her jury instructions, they should be informed promptly so that prosecutors can appeal.

This filing reflects prosecutors’ ongoing frustration with Cannon’s case management. The Trump-appointed judge has yet to rule on multiple defense motions to dismiss the indictment, and disagreements between the two sides remain unresolved.

Donald Trump (Credits: The New Yorker)

The trial date remains uncertain, suggesting that the case, which prosecutors say has overwhelming evidence, may continue beyond the November presidential election.

Cannon, who previously faced criticism over her decision to grant Trump’s request for an independent review of documents seized during an FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, heard arguments last month on two of Trump’s motions to dismiss the case.

One argument was that the Presidential Records Act allowed him to designate documents as personal and, therefore, allowed him to retain them. The judge appeared skeptical of this position but did not immediately rule.

Later, she asked both sides to create jury instructions based on the premise that a president has sole authority under the PRA to categorize records as personal or presidential during their presidency, and neither a court nor a jury can review this decision.

Prosecutors disagreed with this interpretation of the law, emphasizing that the distinction between personal and presidential records under the PRA should not influence the jury instructions for the charges related to illegally retaining national defense information.

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