Judge Cannon Sets Hearing Next Week in Trump Documents Case

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a Super Tuesday election night party Tuesday, March 5, 2024, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.

U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon ordered a hearing next week for legal arguments in the looming trial of Donald Trump for allegedly mishandling classified documents – while both sides await her decision on when the trial will be.

Cannon, who held a hearing last week in which lawyers sparred over when to start the trial, told Trump’s lawyers and special counsel Jack Smith’s team to be prepared to spend the whole day in court.

Cannon said she wants to hear arguments on Thursday about Trump’s claims that he is protected from prosecution by the Presidential Records Act and that criminal law involving the mishandling of national security secrets can’t be applied to him as a former president.

The 1978 Presidential Records Act specifies that presidential records belong to the public and are to be turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration at the end of a presidency.

Trump has argued the case should be dismissed because he designated the materials he took to Mar-a-Lago while he was still president as personal – and thus was allowed to keep them.

Prosecutors said the materials that he took from the White House are “indisputably presidential, not personal” and even if Trump did designate them as personal, prosecutors said, the PRA would still not apply to classified information.

“Nothing in the PRA leaves it to a President to make unilateral, unreviewable, and perpetually binding decisions to remove presidential records from the White House in a manner that thwarts the operation of the PRA – a statute designed to ensure that presidential records are the property of the United States and that they are preserved for the people,” Smith’s Thursday filing said.

That was just one of 11 different court filings Smith filed Thursday pushing back against various legal claims made by Trump and his co-defendants, Walt “Waltine” Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira.

In one of those responses, Smith also rejected Trump’s claims that the prosecution was politically motivated.

Trump’s legal team has argued that he should not be charged because other American leaders – including President Biden, former secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former vice president, Mike Pence – also wrongly handled sensitive government information but were not charged with crimes.

Prosecutors said Trump was charged, and the others were not, because his conduct was far worse than theirs.

None of those others, the special counsel wrote, “is alleged to have willfully retained a vast trove of highly sensitive, confidential materials and repeatedly sought to thwart their lawful return and engaged in a multifaceted scheme of deception and obstruction – a scheme that included not only Trump’s own repeated efforts to stymie the investigation, but his recruitment and direction of his subordinates to join in the conspiracy.”

Trump is charged with stashing highly sensitive classified papers at his Mar-a-Lago home after his presidency, and then scheming to keep some of them even after receiving a grand jury subpoena for their return. Prosecutors charge that Nauta, a longtime Trump aide, helped the former president try to hide the documents from investigators, and that De Oliveira tried to persuade another Trump employee to erase security camera footage that showed what they did. All three men have pleaded not guilty.