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Judge In Trump’s Documents Case Rips Jack Smith Over ‘Unjust’ Filing

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who has increasingly come under fire from the left over her handling of the classified documents case against former President Donald Trump, took special counsel Jack Smith to task in a three-page order on Thursday over his latest filing.

Smith claimed that Cannon was pursuing a “wrong” legal premise regarding jury instructions over the Presidential Records Act and requested that she rule quickly on the issue so he could appeal if she ruled in favor of the former president.

He also argued she was pursuing a “fundamentally flawed legal premise” about her request for competing jury instructions regarding the PRA.

“The PRA’s distinction between personal and presidential records has no bearing on whether a former President’s possession of documents containing national defense information is authorized under the Espionage Act, and the PRA should play no role in the jury instructions,” Smith said in the filing. “Indeed, based on the current record, the PRA should not play any role at trial at all.”

“Furthermore, Trump’s entire effort to rely on the PRA is not based on any facts,” Smith continues. “Instead he has attempted to fashion out of whole cloth a legal presumption that would operate untethered to any facts — without regard to his actual decisions, his actual intent, the unambiguous definition of what constitutes personal records under the PRA, or the plainly non-personal content of the highly classified documents he retained.”

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“There is no basis in law or fact for that legal presumption, and the Court should reject Trump’s effort to invent one as a vehicle to inject the PRA into this case,” he concluded.

Smith’s filing came in response to a separate court filing by Trump’s legal team requesting that Cannon dismiss the case “because a federal records law protected him from prosecution”—namely, the PRA, the Washington Post reported.

Cannon rejected Trump’s motion on Thursday, which argued that the PRA took precedence over the Espionage Act, under which Trump has been charged, writing that the PRA “does not provide a pre-trial basis to dismiss” either the mishandling charges or the related obstruction charges against him, the Post noted.

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But she also took issue with the tone of Smith’s filing, the outlet added:

Even as she ruled against Trump’s motion, Cannon’s three-page order also revealed her displeasure over Smith’s characterization of her order, suggesting this may not be the last such battle in the historic prosecution of a former president and the presumptive GOP presidential candidate.

The person appointed by Trump wrote, “The Court declines the Special Counsel’s demand for anticipatory finalization of jury instructions prior to trial, prior to a charge conference, and prior to the presentation of trial defenses and evidence, as such a demand is unprecedented and unfair.”

Cannon noted further that her 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.”

Rather, she wrote, 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,” according to the order.

Cannon did not indicate whether she believed that the PRA could be a defense for Trump to use later. This leaves the possibility open for her or the former president to revive the issue during a trial.

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