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Trump tries presidential immunity claim in classified documents case

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(The Center Square) – Former President Donald Trump wants a judge to dismiss charges against him in Florida that accuse him of mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House claiming he has presidential immunity.

Trump, 77, the frontrunner for the GOP nomination to challenge incumbent President Joe Biden, has pleaded not guilty to 40 felony counts that allege he kept sensitive military documents, shared them with people who didn’t have security clearance, and tried to get around the government’s attempts to get them back.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court shot down his claims of presidential immunity in his Washington D.C. case, where he stands charged with interfering with the 2020 election. But that didn’t stop Trump’s legal team from trying again in the classified documents case.

His defense attorneys said the appeals court was wrong and urged Judge Aileen Cannon to reject the appeals court’s reasoning.

“The D.C. Circuit recently erred in finding that President Trump was not entitled to presidential immunity in connection with the set of criminal charges pending in the District of Columbia,” his defense team wrote in a motion to dismiss the case. “… This Court should not follow the D.C. Circuit’s non-binding, poorly reasoned decision.”

The motion asks the judge to dismiss 32 of the 40 counts Trump faces in his classified documents trial. Another defense motion seeks the dismissal of the same counts for being “unconstitutionally vague.” A third alleges that the case should be dumped because special counsel Jack Smith lacks authority to prosecute the case.

“The Appointments Clause does not permit the Attorney General to appoint, without Senate confirmation, a private citizen and like-minded political ally to wield the prosecutorial power of the United States,” according to the defense motion. “As such, Jack Smith lacks the authority to prosecute this action.”

A fourth motion to dismiss seeks to toss the superseding indictment based on the Presidential Records Act.

“First, the PRA conferred unreviewable discretion on President Trump to designate the records at issue as personal. As such, President Trump’s possession of those records was not ‘unauthorized,’ ” the defense team wrote. “Second, the PRA’s exclusive remedy for records collection efforts by [National Archives and Records Administration] is civil in nature and forecloses criminal investigations.”

The defense team, led by attorneys Todd Blanche and Christopher Kise, alleged that official actions taken by the president can’t be reviewed by the courts.

That argument comes just weeks after the D.C. Circuit rejected similar claims in the election interference case.

“For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant,” the three-judge panel wrote in a unanimous decision. “But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution.”

Two of the judges on the D.C. panel were appointed by President Joe Biden – J. Michelle Childs and Florence Pan – and one, Karen LeCraft Henderson, by George H.W. Bush.

Trump appointed Cannon to the bench.

Trump is expected to appeal the D.C. ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

He has repeatedly said the criminal and civil cases he faces are part of effort to thwart his return to the White House.

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