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Federal Prosecutors Criticize Judge In Trump Document Case Over 'Flawed' Jury Instruction Order

Federal prosecutors expressed frustration at the judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s classified documents case in Florida, warning her off potential jury instructions that they said rest on a “fundamentally flawed legal premise,” the AP reports. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon had asked prosecutors and defense lawyers to file proposed jury instructions for most of the charges even though it remains unclear when the case might reach trial, asking lawyers to respond to competing interpretations of the law that appeared to accept the Republican ex-president’s argument that he was entitled under a statute known as the Presidential Records Act to retain the sensitive documents he is now charged with possessing. The order surprised legal experts and alarmed special counsel Jack Smith’s team, which said in a filing late Tuesday that that 1978 law — which requires presidents to return presidential records to the government upon leaving office but permits them to retain purely personal ones — has no relevance in a case concerning highly classified documents. “Not a single [witness] had heard Trump say that he was designating records as personal or that, at the time he caused the transfer of boxes to Mar-a-Lago, he believed that his removal of records amounted to designating them as personal under the PRA,” prosecutors wrote. “To the contrary, every witness who was asked this question had never heard such a thing.”


The filing reflects continued exasperation by prosecutors at Cannon’s handling of the case. The Trump-appointed judge has yet to rule on multiple defense motions to dismiss the case as well as other disagreements between the two sides, and the trial date remains in flux, suggesting that a prosecution that Smith’s team has said features overwhelming evidence could remain unresolved by the time of the November presidential election. Cannon, who earlier faced blistering criticism over her decision to grant Trump’s request for an independent arbiter to review documents obtained during an FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, heard arguments last month on two of Trump’s motions to dismiss the case: that the Presidential Records Act permitted him to designate the documents as personal and that he was therefore permitted to retain them.

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