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Judge denies Trump motion to throw out classified files case

Published March 14, 2024last updated March 14, 2024

The legal battle over classified documents at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate continues as judge denies his dismissal request. Trump's legal team faces a setback in its defense strategy.

Donald Trump arriving at court in Florida, smiling
Donald Trump is accused of keeping classified national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he left officeImage: Marco Bello/REUTERS

A US federal judge has denied a motion by Donald Trump's lawyers to throw out a criminal case that accuses him of illegally holding onto classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago mansion.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon — who was appointed to the bench by Trump in 2020 — denied the motion on Thursday hours after Trump's legal team argued that the central charge was too vague.

She ruled that the question "warrants serious consideration" but should not be decided at this point.

The former president has pleaded not guilty to a 40-count indictment that accused him of retaining classified national security documents at his Palm Beach mansion after he left office in January 2021, and then obstructing US government efforts to retrieve the documents.

What did Trump's lawyers argue?

The legal team representing Trump argued that the central charge — that he illegally retained information related to US national defense — is improperly vague as it applies to a former president.

Trump's lawyers separately argued that he was authorized to keep the documents because he designated them as "personal" under Presidential Records Act.

But Cannon also dismissed this argument at the hearing on Thursday.

"It's difficult to see how this gets you to dismissal of the indictment," she told Trump's lawyers.

Donald Trump's motorcade arriving at court in Florida
Trump's motorcade arrived at court ahead of the hearingImage: Marco Bello/REUTERS

Special counsel Jack Smith's team says that the documents are presidential records, not personal files, and that the Presidential Records Act does not apply to classified and top-secret documents.

The Presidential Records Act "does not exempt Trump from the criminal law, entitle him to unilaterally declare highly classified presidential records to be personal records, or shield him from criminal investigations — let alone allow him to obstruct a federal investigation with impunity," prosecutors wrote in a court filing last week.

Trump, who is the presumptive Republican nominee for president, faces three other criminal cases ahead of the US election in November.

zc/wmr (AP, Reuters)