Judge rejects Trump’s bid to toss documents case over ‘vagueness’

A federal judge on Thursday denied a motion from former President Trump to dismiss his classified documents case, a determination made shortly after a hearing on various motions from the former president seeking to toss the case.

The ruling from Judge Aileen Cannon comes after she expressed skepticism during Thursday’s three-hour hearing that Trump’s case could be tossed for “unconstitutional vagueness.”

Trump’s legal team has filed nine different motions seeking to toss the case, arguing in one of the February filings that the law was unclear as it applied to Trump.

Trump attorney Emil Bove said ambiguity in the statute permits what he called “selective” enforcement by the Justice Department, leading to Trump being charged but enabling others to avoid prosecution, pointing to President Biden.

“The court’s obligation is to strike the statute and say, ‘Congress, get it right,’” Bove told Cannon.

Jay Bratt, a prosecutor on special counsel Jack Smith’s team, disputed that the statute was unclear.

The judge told Trump’s attorney that striking down a statute — as the defense is seeking — would be “quite an extraordinary step.” But she also pointedly noted to a prosecutor that no former president has ever been charged with mishandling classified documents.

Bratt responded that there has never been another situation “remotely similar to this one.”

Cannon only considered two of Trump’s nine motions on Thursday, and she did not immediately rule on the other matter in question — whether the case could be tossed under the Presidential Records Act.

Trump has argued that the more than 300 classified records recovered from his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida could be considered personal records rather than presidential ones.

There, Cannon also expressed skepticism, noting that Trump’s claims were in dispute, and thus not a good basis for throwing out the indictment.

The law, enacted in 1978, requires presidents upon leaving office to transfer their presidential records to the U.S. government for management — specifically by the National Archives and Records Administration — though they are permitted to retain personal records, including diaries and notes that are purely private and not prepared for government business.

The Associated Press contributed.

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