Trump files multiple motions to dismiss in federal classified documents case

 February 24, 2024

Former President Donald Trump is currently awaiting action from the U.S. Supreme Court on his claims of presidential immunity from criminal prosecution in the federal election-related case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith in a Washington D.C. district court, which he asserts should result in the dismissal of those charges.

Now Trump has raised a similar claim of presidential immunity in the classified documents case, also brought by Special Counsel Smith in a South Florida court, as he attempts to have those charges dismissed as well, the Associated Press reported.

That motion to dismiss based on his claimed presidential immunity from prosecution was just one of four motions to dismiss, each citing a different reason, that Trump's attorneys filed on Thursday, which was the general deadline for all pre-trial motions in the classified documents case.

Motion to dismiss based on "presidential immunity"

In the 22-page motion to dismiss based on presidential immunity, former President Trump's attorney Christopher Kise wrote, "President Trump is immune from prosecution on Counts 1 through 32 because the charges turn on his alleged decision to designate records as personal under the Presidential Records Act (“PRA”) and to cause the records to be moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago."

"As alleged in the Superseding Indictment, President Trump made this decision while he was still in office. The alleged decision was an official act, and as such is subject to presidential immunity," the motion continued. "The Court should hold a hearing to resolve any factual disputes relating to the official nature of President Trump’s PRA designation and the removal of his personal records from the White House. Following any necessary hearing, the Court should dismiss Counts 1 through 32."

The AP noted that Trump's immunity claim has not fared well thus far in the D.C. courts, having been rejected by both the district court and a circuit court panel, but the motion stated, "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."

"The D.C. Circuit’s analysis is not persuasive for many of the reasons discussed below, and President Trump is pursuing further review of that erroneous decision, including en banc review if allowed, and review in the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary," the motion added. "This Court should not follow the D.C. Circuit’s non-binding, poorly reasoned decision."

Three other dismissal motions filed by Trump

Following that, former President Trump's attorney also submitted a 20-page motion to dismiss the charges against him based on the "unconstitutional vagueness" doctrine, in that there were legitimate questions about the meaning of particularly vague language in one of the criminal statutes pressed against him.

They weren't done there, though, in the effort to have the charges in the classified documents case dismissed, as Trump's attorney also filed a 16-page motion to dismiss based on the alleged "unlawful appointment and funding" of Special Counsel Smith.

That motion argued that Attorney General Merrick Garland violated the Appointments Clause in naming Smith as a special counsel in that he was not properly appointed as a federal officer and needed to first be confirmed by the Senate to properly exercise federal authority -- an argument raised initially by the well-respected former Attorney General Edwin Meese and esteemed constitutional law professors Steven Calabresi and Gary Lawson.

Finally, Trump's attorney filed a 17-page motion to dismiss the entire indictment based on the Presidential Records Act, which he asserted "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' as alleged in Counts 1 through 32."

"Second, the PRA’s exclusive remedy for records collection efforts by NARA is civil in nature and forecloses criminal investigations," the motion added. "Therefore, as with Counts 1 through 32, the remaining Counts charging President Trump in the Superseding Indictment fail to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(3)(v) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Accordingly, pursuant to the PRA, the Superseding Indictment must be dismissed."

Smith has until March 7 to respond to dismissal motions

According to the docket in former President Trump's classified documents case, it appears that District Judge Aileen Cannon has given Special Counsel Smith until March 7 to submit his responses to the four separate motions to dismiss, after which, at some point, the judge will rule in favor of or against the several motions.

The AP noted that the case is tentatively scheduled to go to trial in May, but Cannon has signaled an openness to pushing that date back, particularly in light of the tedious and time-consuming procedures for dealing with classified documents in a courtroom setting and the voluminous amount of evidence at hand.

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