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Trump’s legal team calls for dismissal of classified documents case, asserts presidential immunity

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Former President Donald Trump’s legal team has petitioned a Florida judge to dismiss the criminal case accusing him of unlawfully retaining classified documents. Citing presidential immunity, Trump asserts protection from prosecution, a stance previously rebuffed in federal appeals courts regarding a separate case involving his alleged interference in the 2020 election.

In a series of motions filed Thursday, Trump’s attorneys contested the charges brought forth by special counsel Jack Smith. They mirrored arguments dismissed by a federal appeals court earlier this month in the Washington case related to election interference. Seeking intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court in the Washington case, Trump aims to delay proceedings until after the November election, as he leads the Republican presidential primary.

The crux of Trump’s defense rests on his purported designation of the documents as “personal” records under the Presidential Records Act during his tenure in the White House. His legal team contends that such an action constitutes an official act, thus shielding him from prosecution. Despite the recent federal appeals court ruling rejecting absolute immunity for former presidents, Trump’s lawyers urged U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon not to follow suit in the classified documents case.

In addition to challenging the merits of the charges, Trump’s legal strategy takes aim at the appointment of special counsel Smith by Attorney General Merrick Garland. Labeling the appointment as “unlawful,” Trump’s attorneys argue for the dismissal of the case. They further assail the law under which Trump is accused, deeming it “unconstitutionally vague” as applied to his situation.

The indictment, issued in June 2023, accuses Trump of hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate and impeding government efforts to retrieve them. Allegations suggest that these actions posed risks to diplomatic relations, military operations, and the safety of confidential sources. Prosecutors additionally claim Trump instructed a staffer to delete camera footage at his Florida estate to obstruct the federal investigation.

While the trial is slated for May, Judge Cannon has hinted at potential adjustments to the schedule during a forthcoming pretrial conference in March. With four criminal cases looming over him, Trump’s legal battles intersect with his aspirations for a return to the White House. The outcome of his immunity claims, particularly as they pertain to the 2020 election case, may shape the trajectory of his legal challenges and political ambitions.

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