Special counsel rejects jury instruction request in Trump documents case

This is perhaps the prosecution’s strongest accusation yet of the way Richter behaves Aileen Cannon has done that Classified information case against the former president Donald TrumpSpecial prosecutor Jack Smith said in court filings late Tuesday night that the judge ordered briefings based on a “fundamentally flawed” understanding of the case that “lacks any basis in law or fact.”

Smith’s team harshly criticized Cannon’s team Ask for jury instructions She echoed Trump’s claims that he had broad powers to seize confidential government documents and said she would seek review by an appeals court if she accepted the former president’s arguments about his records retention powers.

In an unusual order last month, Cannon ordered attorneys in the classified documents case to file briefs on possible jury instructions defining the terms of the Espionage Act under which Trump is charged with mishandling 32 classified documents. Specifically, Cannon asked the special prosecutor and defense attorneys to write two versions of the proposed jury instructions.

The first scenario would instruct a jury to assess whether each of the records Trump is accused of keeping falls into the categories of “personal” or “presidential” as set forth in the Presidential Records Act, a post-Watergate law that governs , like White House records belonging to the government must be processed at the end of a presidency.

The second version requested by Cannon assumes that as president, Trump had full authority to obtain the documents he wanted from the White House, which would make it nearly impossible for prosecutors to secure a conviction. If it were to introduce this type of instruction, Smith’s team said, “the government must be given the opportunity to initiate an immediate appeal review.”

“Both scenarios rely on an unstated and fundamentally flawed legal premise—namely, that the Presidential Records Act, and particularly its distinction between ‘personal’ and ‘presidential’ records, determines whether a former president is ‘authorized’ under the Espionage Act. possessing top secret documents and storing them in an unsafe facility,” the special counsel team wrote.

If a jury were allowed to do so, prosecutors said, “this premise would distort the trial.”

Cannon’s request came days after she heard arguments over whether the Presidential Records Act gave the former president broad authority to characterize records from his time in the White House as personal. Trump’s lawyers claim he had that authority and have asked the judge to dismiss the criminal charges.

In their own proposed jury instructions filed Tuesday evening, Trump’s defense attorneys suggested that, in the first hypothesis, Cannon should tell the trial jury that Trump was “authorized” by the PRA “to exercise control over a category of documents.” have what are defined as ‘personal records’ and after his term of office.”

In the second scenario, defense attorneys wrote that “there cannot be adequate jury instructions on factual issues … because this scenario precludes the prosecution of President Trump.”

Trump’s proposal also calls into question Smith’s ability to prove that the former president “knowingly” preserved the documents, meaning he was aware that doing so violated the law. “Medical science has not yet developed a tool that can record what was on someone’s mind in the distant past,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.

Prosecutors have repeatedly said that PRA is not relevant to the case against Trump because the conduct he is accused of occurred after the end of his term as president. Trump’s claim that he considered the records personal was “pure fiction” was fabricated after the National Archives seized boxes of classified information from Mar-a-Lago two years after he left office, they wrote Tuesday.

Their new filing sheds light on some of the evidence investigators have collected about Trump’s recording habits during his presidency. According to prosecutors, there is no evidence that Trump classified the relevant secret recordings as personal when he left the White House, and prosecutors said he only got the idea from a party leader many months later he actually had such power in a conservative legal organization.

Cannon expressed skepticism that the charges should be dismissed entirely during the hearing, but said Trump’s lawyers made “forceful” arguments that might be appropriate to present to a jury.

Still, Cannon has not yet made an official decision on the motion to dismiss the case, and her request for hypothetical jury instructions appears to show that the judge is still considering how or whether the PRA fits into the case overall.

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