The idea that Trump could claim personal records was slammed by the special counsel

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NEUTRAL

In response to the judge presiding over the former president Donald Trump’s case involving classified documents, special counsel Jack Smith asked her to reconsider considering the possibility that Trump ever owned any personal ownership of the materials he is accused of obtaining illegally on Tuesday.

Legal experts have argued that one of Trump’s most bizarre defenses is that he had the unchecked ability to claim all classified records as his personal property. Smith argued that accepting such an argument would not only be “pure fiction,” but also “meritless and fatally undermined” by all the evidence gathered by the government as part of their case. Smith made this argument in a late-night filing in response to an order last month from Judge Aileen Cannon requesting proposed jury instructions.

Smith claims that interviews with “numerous” high-ranking White House officials and Trump’s own representatives under the Presidential Records Act are among the evidence, none of whom “had heard Trump say that he was designating records as personal.”.

Smith’s office stated, “On the contrary, none of the witnesses who were questioned had ever heard of such a thing.”.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has already reversed Cannon’s decisions twice in this case, and Smith’s office urged Cannon repeatedly to “inform the parties of that decision well in advance of trial” if she persisted in considering such an interpretation of the Presidential Records Act.

The filing stated that “well before jeopardy attaches, the Government must have the opportunity to consider appellate review.”.

After exiting the White House, Trump allegedly refused to turn over hundreds of documents containing classified information, according to the prosecution. Last year, he entered a not guilty plea to all charges pertaining to his handling of classified materials. S. nuclear secrets to the country’s military prowess, and they took action to obstruct the government’s attempts to retrieve the records. As a political witch hunt, the former president has criticized the investigation.

The special counsel’s office claimed in their filing that Cannon should be informed that Trump had no personal stake in the documents that were taken during the FBI’s 2022 search of his Mar-a-Lago estate, citing the 11th Circuit’s earlier ruling. “The filing stated that the plaintiff does not suffer a cognizable harm if the United States reviews documents he neither owns nor has a personal interest in because he does not have a possessory interest in the documents at issue,” the filing said.

In the filing, Smith’s office also included a series of exchanges between Trump’s team and Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, which they claimed demonstrated his recognition—as early as February 2022—that “the classified records at issue in this case were presidential rather than personal.”. “.

The document claims that while Fitton was suggesting to an unidentified Trump staff member that the documents Trump had at Mar-a-Lago “should have been characterized as personal,” another staff member urged Trump to reject this line of reasoning and told him why.

However, Trump issued a statement on February 10, 2022, in which he partially asserted, “I have been informed that I was not required to provide the material due to numerous court decisions that have been rendered over the years.”. The second employee was unaware of Trump’s theory prior to this encounter. Before the president of Judicial Watch explained this theory to him in February 2022, no other witness could recall Trump endorsing it. “.

Later in the filing, the special counsel presents drafts of hypothetical instructions that they claim Judge Cannon’s order would allow former presidents to do, arguing that they would amount to “incorrect” jury instructions:.

Among the instances are:.

“All the same, I direct you to allow a former President to store information outside of a secure facility, even without a security clearance, if the information is stored in a “personal record,” as defined by the Presidential Records Act (PRA), which is a statute that establishes public ownership of presidential records and guarantees their preservation for public access even after the President’s term in office ends. “.”.

“I also give you instructions that a President may designate any record as personal, without review, even if it doesn’t fit the statutory definitions I just gave. Furthermore, I direct you to hold the President harmless even if, as claimed in the Superseding Indictment, he transfers White House records to a location other than the National Archives and Records Administration before the end of his term in office. This is because he has exercised his unreviewable authority to designate those records as personal, and as a matter of law, he is authorized to possess them. “.”.

A range of fictitious jury instructions that would virtually ensure Trump’s immediate acquittal were presented by Trump’s team in their own filing in response to Judge Cannon’s order.

Included in them:.

According to the Constitution and associated laws, President Trump was the ‘original classification authority’ for the United States, meaning that he and those to whom he delegated authority used it to categorize information. In addition, President Trump had unchecked power to declassify information and documents in his capacity as US president. Evidence was presented to you during the trial demonstrating that, while in office, President Trump used his authority both orally and occasionally without following the proper channels. I give you instructions that the aforementioned declassification decisions are instances of legitimate and lawfully appropriate applications of President Trump’s declassification powers during his administration. “.

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