Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Judge Cannon strikes paragraph in Trump classified document indictment

Judge Cannon strikes paragraph in Trump classified document indictment


U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon ruled Monday that she will delete a paragraph in the federal superseding indictment against Donald Trump that alleges he mishandled classified materials after he left the White House and thwarted officials’ attempts to retrieve them.

The judge said that prosecutors’ inclusion of paragraph 36 — which alleges Trump showed a classified document in September 2021 about a military operation to someone without a security clearance — is inappropriate because it is not connected to a specific crime that Trump is accused of committing.

Trump is not charged with disclosing classified materials to anyone after he left office. Cannon’s ruling suggests that she believes this type of evidence which prosecutors used to establish Trump’s alleged carelessness with classified materials would be better introduced as evidence at trial — not in the charging document.

The ruling does not have a substantive effect on the case. Cannon wrote in her ruling that if jurors take the indictment with them to deliberations, they would receive the edited version.

The order to strike the paragraph in the indictment was part of a broader ruling from Cannon that rejected a longshot request by Trump and his co-defendants to dismiss the obstruction-related charges of the case because of “failure to state an offense and for related pleading deficiencies.”

The defendants had argued that the indictment is legally insufficient because prosecutors failed to spell out in plain language the “distinct violations of federal criminal law” in each charge. They argued that the indictment contained gratuitous language and accusations and served as a political attack against Trump.

Cannon ruled that the indictment and its language is “permitted by law.”

Still, she rebuked prosecutors’ approach to the indictment and wrote that it is confusing and that “much of the language in the Superseding Indictment is legally unnecessary to serve the function of an indictment.”

Monday’s decision is the latest instance of Cannon chiding special counsel Jack Smith for what she sees as shortcomings in his decision-making.

Two weeks ago, she criticized Smith in response to his request that she order Trump to stop making incendiary claims about law enforcement personnel.

Cannon said the emergency request lacked “professional courtesy” because prosecutors did not properly consult with the defense before submitting their request. She also claimed they crammed important facts about the request in an “editorialized footnote.”

Prosecutors have since refiled the request after conferring more extensively with Trump’s legal team.

The Florida trial was supposed to begin in May, but has been delayed indefinitely as Cannon slowly makes her way through a backlog of pretrial motions.

In late June, Cannon has scheduled back-to-back pretrial hearings in her Fort Pierce, Fla., courtroom over a three-day period on some of Trump’s longshot motions to dismiss the case.

She has also scheduled a hearing on prosecutors’ request to restrict Trump from making any further claims that falsely suggest that FBI agents were “complicit in a plot to assassinate him.”



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