Special counsel slams the idea that President Trump can claim classified documents as personal records


Special Counsel Jack Smith responds to judge overseeing former president on Tuesday donald trump‘s confidential document incidenturged her to reverse course on harboring the idea that President Trump has personal ownership over classified materials that he is accused of illegally possessing.

In a late night filing in response to an order from last month, Judge Eileen Cannon Smith accepts at face value what legal experts say is one of Trump’s most radical defenses: that the former president had an unrestricted ability to claim all classified records as personal property. It argued that it was reasonable to request such jury instructions and accept such arguments. Not only is the case “pure fiction,” it will be “worthless and fatally undermined” by any evidence the government has collected as part of the case.

Smith said the evidence includes interviews with Trump’s own Presidential Records Act representatives and “numerous” senior White House officials, none of whom said “President Trump “I’ve never heard anyone say that something is designated as personal.”

Read more: Judge rejects one of President Trump’s motions to dismiss docket lawsuit

“On the contrary, all of the witnesses asked this question had never heard of such a thing,” Smith’s office said.

Mr. Smith’s office repeatedly insisted to Mr. Cannon that if he were to continue with such an interpretation of the Presidential Records Act, “the parties must be notified of the decision well in advance of trial,” and the 11th He indicated that he would seek relief from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. , her ruling in this case has already been overturned twice.

“The government must be given the opportunity to consider appellate review before it becomes jeopardized,” the filing states.

President Trump last year pleaded not guilty He left the White House after prosecutors said he repeatedly refused to return hundreds of documents containing classified information ranging from U.S. nuclear secrets to national defense capabilities and took steps to thwart government efforts. He was later indicted on all charges related to his handling of classified materials. Please get your documents back. The former president denounced the investigation as a political witch hunt.

Photo: Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the Forum River Center in Rome, Georgia on March 9, 2024. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, File)

Earlier in the 11th Circuit, the special counsel’s office argued in a filing that Cannon should make it clear that President Trump has no personal interest in the documents the FBI seized in 2022. quoted the opinion of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate raided. “Because the plaintiff has no proprietary interest in the documents at issue, the plaintiff will suffer no discernible harm if the United States examines documents that the plaintiff does not own and in which he has no personal interest. No,” the application states.

As part of the filing, Smith’s office also disclosed a series of communications between Trump’s team and Tom Fitton, president of the conservative group Judicial Watch, that in February 2022 They argued that the classified records showed Mr. Trump’s knowledge that This incident was presidential, not personal. ”

The filing says Mr. Fitton advised an unnamed Trump employee that records held by Mr. Trump at Mar-a-Lago “should have been made private.” Yet another employee urged Mr. Trump to reject such claims and explained why.

“Nevertheless, on February 10, 2022, President Trump issued a written statement that read in part, “Based on various legal decisions handed down over the years, I am obligated to provide materials. It is said that there was no such thing.” ” Until this time, the second employee had never heard this theory from Mr. Trump. No other witnesses recalled Trump supporting this theory until the Judicial Oversight chairman brought it to Trump in February 2022. ”

Later in their filing, the special counsel includes a draft of what they argue amounts to a “misguided” jury instruction that lays out hypotheticals about what Judge Cannon’s order would allow the former president to do. ing.

Examples include:

“However, when it comes to former presidents, even if they don’t need to know the classified information, have no need to know the classified information, and keep the information outside of a secure facility, if the classified information is leaked, I would like to inform you that I am authorized to do so.” This term is included in “Personal Records” as defined by the Presidential Records Act (PRA). This term is a law that establishes public ownership of presidential records and ensures that presidential records are preserved for public access after the president’s term ends. At work. “

“Additionally, I would like to inform you that the President has the unpeer-reviewable authority to designate any record as personal, regardless of whether it meets the legal definition I just provided. Previously, as alleged in the superseding indictment, the president had transferred records from the White House to locations other than the National Archives and Records Administration, which necessarily made those records private. He is exercising an unexamined power to designate, and is legally authorized to do so. You may not convict him for possessing them.”

In its own filing in response to Judge Cannon’s order, Mr. Trump’s team submitted a variety of hypothetical jury instructions that essentially guaranteed Mr. Trump’s immediate jury acquittal.

among them:

“As President of the United States, President Trump had the so-called “unique classification authority” based on authority under the Constitution and related laws, which President Trump delegated by himself and others. means that the authority was used to declassify information…As President of the United States, President Trump also had absolute and unreviewable authority to declassify documents and information. …You heard evidence during the trial that President Trump exercised that authority, sometimes verbally. These declassification decisions were made without formal procedures while President Trump was President of the United States, and are examples of President Trump’s effective and legally appropriate use of his declassification authority. I’ll tell you something. ”

President Trump’s classified documents trial is currently scheduled to begin on May 20, but Judge Cannon is expected to postpone that date. recent arguments From both sides.

Special counsel slams the idea that President Trump can claim classified documents as personal records originally appeared abcnews.go.com

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