Trump In Court Today For Classified Documents Hearing—Here’s What To Know

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Trump In Court Today For Classified Documents Hearing—Here’s What To Know

Topline

Former President Donald Trump is expected to attend a court hearing in Florida Thursday, as U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon considers several of the ex-president’s requests to have most of his criminal charges for allegedly mishandling White House documents thrown out.

ormer President Donald Trump arrives for an election-night watch party at Mar-a-Lago on March 5 in … [+] West Palm Beach, Florida.

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Key Facts

Trump is expected to be in court Monday, his lawyers suggested in a court filing, along with co-defendants Walter Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, Trump’s valet and a Mar-a-Lago employee, respectively.

Cannon will hear arguments on two of Trump’s motions to dismiss the charges against him, one alleging they’re invalid under the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and another trying to have them thrown out for “unconstitutional vagueness.”

Trump alleges he was allowed to designate White House records as personal under the PRA, a 1978 law passed in the wake of the Watergate scandal, and thus didn’t illegally willfully retain national security information, as he’s been charged with.

The Justice Department says Trump is wrong and the PRA does not give him that authority, writing the documents Trump possessed at Mar-a-Lago are “indisputably presidential, not personal.”

Trump also claims that his charges under the Espionage Act are invalid, because the law bars people from retaining national security information who aren’t authorized to have it, but Trump did have such authority because he was president.

DOJ opposes that motion as well, arguing Trump’s claims “ring hollow” because he was given notice that he didn’t have authority to possess the documents—and that even if he did have a clearance to hold national security materials, “no clearance would have authorized him to possess the document at a social club, frequented by thousands of employees, members, and visitors, with none of the safeguards required for the handling of that sensitive material.”

What To Watch For

The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. Eastern time and is expected to take all day. It’s unclear when Cannon will rule on Trump’s motions, and whether that will be at the hearing or later on. Trump still has other pending motions to dismiss his indictment in addition to the ones being heard Thursday, including because he claims to have “presidential immunity” since he purportedly designated White House documents as being personal while he was still in office. It’s unclear when Cannon will hear or rule on those motions.

What We Don’t Know

When the case will go to trial. The classified documents case was initially scheduled to go to trial in May, but got pushed back as Cannon, a Trump appointee, delayed deadlines in the case. It’s now unclear when it will be rescheduled for, with the DOJ proposing a July start date and Trump wanting it to be pushed back until after the November election, or at least start in August if that’s not possible. Cannon has not yet ruled on when the new date will be, and it remains to be seen when she will, or if she’ll give any indication on the trial date at Thursday’s hearing.

Big Number

40. That’s how many felony charges Trump faces in the documents case. Most of those charges—32 of them—are based on Trump’s alleged retention of national security documents, while others concern allegations he obstructed the DOJ’s investigation by concealing records. Trump’s motions to dismiss the charges against him that will be discussed Thursday specifically concern the first 32 counts for allegedly mishandling records, and not the obstruction charges.

Surprising Fact

Some legal experts have been heavily skeptical of Trump’s PRA claims, with Jason R. Baron, the former director of litigation at the National Archives, telling The Washington Post the ex-president’s argument is “absurd.” “A president cannot designate records about White House official business — classified or unclassified — as personal,” Baron told the Post, slamming Trump’s claims that “merely … transferring boxes to Mar-a-Lago converts the legal status of their contents from presidential records to personal.” Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance also criticized Trump’s legal motions Thursday morning, tweeting, “I’ve handled a lot of motions in criminal cases. These are barely better than frivolous.”

Key Background

Trump was indicted in June 2023 for allegedly mishandling White House documents, following a yearslong investigation that included the FBI searching Mar-a-Lago for documents in Aug. 2022. Trump brought boxes of White House documents back to his Florida estate after leaving office, and while he voluntarily turned some over to the National Archives in Jan. 2022, the DOJ launched an investigation upon having reason to believe not all had been turned over. Investigators subpoenaed Trump for all remaining classified materials in June 2022, and ultimately searched Mar-a-Lago based on a belief he hadn’t fully complied with the subpoena. The DOJ ultimately recovered more than 11,000 documents, including more than 100 additional classified ones, from Trump’s Florida estate, and have accused him of intentionally concealing documents from the government and his own attorneys when he was subpoenaed. The former president has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and maintains he did nothing wrong, decrying the case and other criminal cases against him as “witch hunts.”

Further Reading

MORE FROM FORBESTrump’s 2024 Legal Cases: Here’s Where They Stand-As Supreme Court Schedules Jan. 6 CaseBy Alison Durkee

MORE FROM FORBESTrump In Court For Classified Documents Hearing-Here’s How It Could Affect TrialBy Alison Durkee

MORE FROM FORBESWhat Crimes Was Trump Charged With In Federal Documents Case? Here’s What To Know As DOJ Brings New ChargesBy Alison Durkee

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