Jack Smith Challenges Federal Judge: Battle Over Secret Documents Unfolds in Court

  • by:
  • Source: Wayne Dupree
  • 04/03/2024
As the lead prosecutor in the case against Donald Trump for keeping secret documents after leaving office, U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith pushed back against a federal judge who seemed like she might agree with Trump's claim that the records were his own.

Smith told the court late Tuesday night that his office would appeal any decision by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon that would tell the jurors to think about what he called Trump's "fundamentally flawed legal premise."

Trump is running against Democratic President Joe Biden as a Republican on November 5. Last year, he pleaded not guilty to a 40-count indictment that said he illegally kept classified documents after leaving office in 2021 and obstructed federal efforts to get them back.

Trump chose Cannon to be a judge, and she has shown that she is open to his claim that he treated the papers as personal under the Presidential Records Act of 1978. This law lets past presidents keep records that are not related to their official duties.

The prosecutors said the papers are about U.S. military and spy issues, such as the country's nuclear program, and could not be seen as personal.

On March 18, the judge told both the prosecution and the defense to come up with jury directions based on two possible law situations, thinking that Trump's case would be used in the trial.

According to the lawyers, one situation in which neither the jury nor the judge could question Trump's claim that the records are personal would pretty much tell the jury to find Trump not guilty. They asked Cannon to quickly decide if Trump's claim would be linked to the charges against him. They said the prosecution needed time "to consider appellate review."

In his statement, Smith said that Cannon's order was wrong and would "distort the trial."

The fourth crime case that Trump is facing is this one. He has said he is not guilty in all of them and tried to make them seem like they were political.

In a filing late Tuesday night, Trump's lawyers said again that the charges should be dropped before the trial because of what they call Trump's choice to treat the records as personal.

With the Presidential Records Act, the U.S. government can get legal records from a president's time in office. It lets past presidents keep some records that are considered personal and have nothing to do with their job duties.

Trump has said that the fact that he took the records to his Florida home, Mar-a-Lago, shows that he thought of them as his own property. The prosecutors say that the records law does not let a past president keep secret information.

The charges against Trump include plot to delay justice and breaking the Espionage Act, which makes it illegal to have defense knowledge without permission. The hearing that was supposed to happen on May 20 is likely to be moved.


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