Judge in classified documents case grapples with how Trump’s personal records could be explained to jury

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By journalsofus.com


US Senate/AP

Aileen Cannon speaks remotely during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight nomination hearing to be a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on July 29, 2020.



cnn

Federal Judge Aileen Cannon issued an order Monday for attorneys to submit instructions to a trial jury in former President Donald Trump’s case. classified documents case – noting that the debate over whether Trump had the authority to store documents from his White House could remain a central issue in the case, which could help you at trial.

But – to the surprise and confusion of several legal experts on Monday – Cannon asked the lawyers in the case to consider how to incorporate the trial into the trial. Presidential Records Act.

The request is unusual and takes both sides into hypothetical and untrodden territory.

Cannon asked both the Justice Department and the defense team to consider how a jury could be asked to weigh the criminal law around national security records if Trump could say the PRA gave him authority to preserve the documents he chose. .

The Justice Department maintains that its charges have nothing to do with the PRA and concern what happened after the presidency: how classified records about U.S. and foreign military secrets were kept without federal protection at a private beach club and allegedly They moved so that government officials would not do so. I can’t find them.

Cannon’s order Monday could also be seen as an exercise in logic that is difficult to parse, even for experienced attorneys trying to determine where it is taking the attorneys involved.

“I don’t understand what he’s doing with this. “I don’t understand where you’re going with this order,” national security lawyer Brad Moss told CNN on Monday. “It’s a set of oddly worded questions that don’t lend themselves to an easily understandable set of answers.”

Moss added that Cannon may want to raise some questions about the documents Trump preserved for the jury, as it has been slow to decide many legal disputes in Trump’s landmark case.

Cannon’s order asked both the special counsel’s office and Trump’s lawyers to draft jury instructions defining the terms of the Espionage Act, under which the former president is accused of mishandling 32 classified records. Part of the law under which Trump is charged criminalizes a person having unauthorized possession of records related to national defense.

Still, the judge asked prosecutors and defense attorneys to write versions of their proposed jury instructions that took the PRA into account by April 2. “Engage in the following competing scenarios and offer alternative draft text that assumes each scenario is a correct formulation of the law to be submitted to a jury,” Cannon wrote on Monday.

The first version would direct a jury to decide whether prosecutors showed that Trump did not have authorization to keep classified documents found on his property, even if they were personal or presidential records. The second scenario would assume that, as president, Trump had complete authority to take whatever records he wanted from the White House under the PRA.

Moss said the second scenario appears to be the equivalent of a judge in a murder case asking how to advise a jury to evaluate the facts, “if the murder had taken place during The Purge,” referencing a movie where all crimes are legal for a time. established period of time.

The exercise follows a hearing last week, during which Trump’s lawyers asserted that he had unfettered power to decide which documents should be returned to the National Archives under the PRA.

Trump asks Cannon to dismiss the charges against him because of the PRA.

Although Cannon was skeptical during the hearing that the charges against the former president should be dismissed because of the PRA, she said the arguments could be a “strong” defense at trial.

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