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Trump claims ‘immunity’ in motions to dismiss Mar-a-Lago classified documents case

The former president’s legal team files series of motions calling on the court to drop charges

Alex Woodward,Maroosha Muzaffar
Friday 23 February 2024 15:57 GMT
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Donald Trump’s attorneys filed a late-night flurry of motions to dismiss federal charges accusing him of illegally withholding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago property.

Among the four arguments across more than70 pages on Thursday night, Mr Trump’s legal team claims that the charges should be dismissed on “presidential immunity” grounds, a defence he has used – and which judges have rejected – in a separate federal case surrounding his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

He also has claimed that the US Department of Justice special counsel prosecuting him is doing so illegally, that the case is marred by “unconstitutional vagueness,” and that the Presidential Records Act protects him from prosecution.

Mr Trump’s “immunity” claim has been repeatedly rejected by a federal judge and a panel of appeals court judges in Washington DC, with the question potentially heading to the US Supreme Court.

In the Mar-a-Lago case, his lawyers argue that he should not face charges for allegedly mishandling and moving classified records from the White House to his private club and residence in Florida because he made the decision to do so while he was president.

Prosecuting former presidents for actions committed while in office is a “threat” that “will hang like a millstone around every future president’s neck, distorting presidential decisionmaking, undermining the president’s independence, and clouding the president’s ability ‘to deal fearlessly and impartially with’ the duties of his office,’” according to Mr Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche.

That defence seeks to avert prosecution under the Espionage Act, which Mr Trump has been accused of violating.

In a separate motion, the former president’s lawyers argue that the law is “unconstitutionally vague as applied to President Trump.”

A 40-count indictment charges Mr Trump with the illegal possession of classified documents at his Florida estate after leaving the White House in January 2021 and for impeding efforts by the US government to reclaim them.

According to the indictment, Mr Trump allegedly attempted to hide boxes of classified documents following a grand jury subpoena that ordered their return. Mr Trump’s aide Walt Nauta and Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos de Oliveira were also indicted and have moved to dismiss the charges against them.

All men have pleaded not guilty.

A trial was tentatively scheduled to begin in May. US District Judge Aileen Cannon, the Trump-appointed judge who is overseeing the case, will hold a hearing next month to determine the trial’s potential schedule.

Mr Trump’s latest legal battle arrived the same day his family attorney’s pushed the New York judge overseeing a sprawling fraud case to delay a massive $355m judgment against him and his co-defendants.

Mr Trump, his two adult sons, two Trump Organization executives and the entities associated with brand-building properties in the Trump real estate empire relied on fraudulently inflated statements of his net worth and assets to secure favourable financing terms over a decade, according to the judgment from New York County Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron.

The former president has called the ruling from the judge – who he described as a “nut job” – as “a form of communism or fascism”.

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