Trump Florida Judge Cannon denies Trump dismissal on 'unconstitutional vagueness'

Judge Cannon stated, "I don't see how it leads to a dismissal... Maybe a defense at trial..."

U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon on Thursday dismissed former President Trump's motion to dismiss charges of retaining classified documents on the grounds of "unconstitutional vagueness." 

This is only one of two motions from Trump's legal team. The judge has not ruled on the other motion to dismiss based on the Presidential Records Act (PRA). 

Defense attorney Todd Blanche argued earlier that the Trump position is that the PRA gives the president the authority to retain documents he sees fit, and essentially take them home or out of the White House, and if that's accurate, that alone is "fatal" to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment. 

"Presidents since George Washington have taken material out of the White House," said Blanche, adding that the PRA was passed in the late '70s and nothing in the statute says anything about documents with markings or anything that gives the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) the ability to challenge a president's decision about which documents are personal versus presidential.

Team Trump also points out often that then-President Trump caused these boxes to be moved while he was still president and that this is the first time NARA has challenged a decision made by a president about which documents are personal versus presidential. They claim NARA only took this action because the president in question was Donald Trump.


Judge Cannon told Blanche, "All that might be right. But I don't see how it leads to a dismissal of the indictment...Maybe a defense at trial..."

Blanche replied that this was a "proper" avenue for a dismissal because the government must prove that the possession of the documents was unauthorized.

Trump Mar-a-Lago

Former President Donald Trump arrives for an election-night watch party at Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach, Florida, on March 5. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

However, Cannon seemed to double down, saying the arguments might have "some force at trial, but it's hard to see how it gets you to a dismissal."

The judge at one point remarked that the Trump defense team's view of the Presidential Records Act would essentially "gut the PRA," giving presidents the unfettered ability to classify clearly presidential records as personal. 


Blanche replied that it is up to Congress to change the law. "That's what's supposed to happen. DOJ can't just decide... [what is personal versus presidential]," he said. 

"We don't have a lot of case law on this because this has never been done before," added Blanche. "While he was the president he took records, like many presidents... For the first time ever, NARA took a different path and made a criminal referral," instead of negotiating with the president as had been done in the past.

Cannon at one point said, "Correct... the seizure of a president's records was seen to be an extraordinary act."

Trump supporters Mar-a-Lago

Former President Donald Trump greets attendees during a Super Tuesday election night watch party at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, on March 5. (Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Blanche pointed out that in the aftermath of the Clinton presidency, "President Clinton hid tapes in his socks and NARA said there's nothing we can do about that."

Cannon asked if those tapes contained any classified information. Blanche said no one knows because the tapes were never recovered from President Clinton.

Trump victory speech

Former President Donald Trump gestures to supporters during an election night watch party at the State Fairgrounds in Columbia, South Carolina, on Feb. 24. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

"They can't have it both ways," said Blanche. "No effort to investigate whether there was national defense information in President Clinton's socks," but still referring the Trump matter to the DOJ for a potential criminal prosecution.

DOJ prosecutor David Harbach told Cannon that the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago "were not personal, nowhere close to that... The only inference is that they were presidential, not personal."

Harbach also went back to one of Cannon's questions to the defense: "Our view is that President Trump's position would completely gut the PRA."

Harbach also took pains to stress the independence of Special Counsel Smith's team: "We are not appendages or puppets of the Biden Administration."

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