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Judge Cannon Gives Trump A Big Win In Classified Docs Case: Report

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


U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has given former President Donald Trump a huge legal win in his classified documents case brought by special counsel Jack Smith.

Cannon on Monday agreed to a Trump legal team request to extend a May 9 deadline. Two of his co-defendants had their deadlines extended as well, Newsweek reported.

“It relates to Section 5(a) of the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), which would disclose what sensitive materials Trump intends to use at the trial,” the outlet’s report continued.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 40 federal charges related to allegations of illegally retaining classified materials after leaving the White House in January 2021, as well as obstructing the federal attempt to retrieve them. In recent decades, former President Bill Clinton, his national security adviser Sandy Berger, former Vice President and now President Joe Biden, and former Vice President Mike Pence have each been found to have classified materials in their possession, though none of them were similarly charged.

In Biden’s case, former special counsel Robert Hur determined the former VP illegally possessed classified materials but refused to charge him, citing Biden’s diminished mental state.

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The trial is scheduled to begin on May 20. However, Cannon did not promptly establish a new deadline for Trump to file his CIPA-related documents, potentially raising the prospect that the trial may not take place before the 2024 election in November, Newsweek noted.

Cannon submitted court filings on Monday, “temporarily staying” the CIPA request regarding the classified materials the defendants plan to use in the trial, as well as the expert witnesses Trump’s legal team intends to call in the Florida trial.

The judge did not explain why the May 9 CIPA deadline had been indefinitely postponed, only stating that an “order setting second set of pretrial deadlines/hearings to follow.”

Cannon has not yet ruled on several motions filed by Trump and his two co-defendants, aide Walt Nauta and Mar-a-Lago maintenance worker Carlos De Oliveira, seeking dismissal of the charges related to classified documents. This could potentially lead to further delays in the trial’s start date.

Cannon granted Trump’s request for a delay following a filing submitted to her court late last week by Smith’s prosecutors admitting to tampering with evidence obtained from an August 2023 FBI raid at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate and misleading the judge for a period of time about certain aspects of the evidence and findings.

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“Legal experts told Just the News the revelation could prove to be a serious problem for prosecutors and a violation of court rules to preserve evidence in the state it was seized,” the outlet reported.

According to a filing by Smith’s team on Friday, the order of documents in some of the boxes of memos that the FBI seized from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate had been altered or jumbled, resulting in two different chronologies—one that was digitally scanned and another that followed the physical order in the boxes.

“Since the boxes were seized and stored, appropriate personnel have had access to the boxes for several reasons, including to comply with orders issued by this Court in the civil proceedings noted above, for investigative purposes, and to facilitate the defendants’ review of the boxes,” Smith’s team wrote in the filing with Cannon’s court.

“There are some boxes where the order of items within that box is not the same as in the associated scans,” the prosecutors wrote.

In a footnote, Smith’s team also acknowledged misleading the court by previously stating that the evidence had remained in the same state as when it was seized.

“The Government acknowledges that this is inconsistent with what Government counsel previously understood and represented to the Court,” the footnote said.

Legal experts have said the admissions are a huge problem for Smith and could even provide more legal justification for Cannon to eventually dismiss the case on grounds of selective prosecution.

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