‘That’s Not How It Works’: Legal Experts, DOJ Slam Trump ‘Shell Game’ Claim He Owns Classified Docs
Legal experts and even the U.S. Dept. of Justice are once again denouncing Donald Trump‘s attempts to avoid possible criminal prosecution and to keep mountains of classified and top secret documents he absconded with from the White House and stored at his Mar-a-Lago resort and residence.
Trump’s latest claim, according to Politico’s Kyle Cheney’s reporting, is that the ex-president is arguing in a “legal brief that the mere [fact] he transported sensitive records to Mar-a-Lago while he was president means he automatically designated them as ‘personal’ while still in office, a designation he says [cannot] be challenged in court.”
“Meanwhile,” Cheney continues, “DOJ says Trump is engaged in a ‘shell game,’ attempting to claim records seized from him are ‘personal’ but, if the judge disagrees, they’re also shielded by executive privilege. DOJ says Trump can’t have it both ways.”
Legal experts agree with DOJ.
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“That’s not how it works,” says former FBI Special Agent Asha Rangappa, an attorney and legal and national security analyst. “The designation of records as presidential or personal happens upon creation or receipt. Seems like they were initially designated as the former because NARA has a record of them. Changing designation after that requires notifying archivist 44 U.S.C. 2203.”
Also agreeing with the DOJ’s assessment, former FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann, who spent 20 years at DOJ, writes: “A new shell game by Trump and his counsel is exactly right.”
“So great that Judge Dearie,” Weissmann adds, referring to Trump’s hand-picked special master, “and not [Trump appointed Judge] Cannon, will have the first crack at this– if 11th Circuit doesn’t make this all moot soon by ending the whole claim before Canon.”
Top national security attorney Bradley Moss adds, “That’s not going to hold up. That’s not what came out of the Clinton tapes decision.”
Attorney Luppe B. Luppen notes that Trump’s argument “would nullify the PRA entirely,” referring to the Presidential Records Act.
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“The outgoing president could just stuff any records he wanted in his pants,” Luppen suggests, if Trump’s legal theory were valid, “regardless of whether they were nuclear submarine secrets, pardons, or original copies of international treaties, and the people wouldn’t own them anymore.”
But Brad Heath, Reuters’ DC reporter for crime and justice offers a big picture overview, saying, “It’s hard to see why the personal/presidential categorization matters very much right now. The government routinely seizes personal records pursuant to search warrants; that’s basically why search warrants exist.”
Trump had at Mar-a-Lago more than 300 classified documents, The New York Times reported in August. Late Sunday night The Guardian reported Trump had “documents bearing classification markings” in his Mar-a-Lago office desk drawer. That could upend his claims he had declassified all the documents at Mar-a-Lago.
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Trump Lawyers in Classified Docs Case Quit Hours After Indictment: Report
Attorneys representing Donald Trump in the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s prosecution of the former president on what reportedly are seven categories of federal felonies have resigned from representing him, just hours after a grand jury indicted their client.
“Two lawyers who represented Donald Trump in the months before he was indicted on federal charges over his handling of classified documents quit working for him Friday morning,” CNBC reports.
“This morning we tendered our resignations as counsel to President Trump, and we will no longer represent him on either the indicted case or the January 6 investigation,” Trump attorneys Jim Trusty (photo) and John Rowley said in a joint statement, according to CNN’s Alayna Treene.
“The attorneys,” CNBC also reported, “did not explain in detail why they had resigned, other than to say that ‘this is a logical moment’ to do given his indictment Thursday in U.S. District Court in Miami.”
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The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reports, “Trump announces on Truth Social that Todd Blanche will be his criminal defense attorney in the Mar-a-Lago docs case with another firm yet to be named. Jim Trusty and John Rowley are out.”
This is far from the first time Trump’s lawyers have quit.
Less than one month ago, as Alternet reported, “Timothy Parlatore, an attorney for Donald Trump, made a major announcement on Wednesday, May 17: He is leaving the former president’s legal team.”
Trusty appeared on CNN just Thursday night, to defend Trump.
Watch video below or at this link.
CNN lets Trusty make unsubstantiated claims 5 times, lets him to make false claims about the Special Counsel, lets him call a warranted search a raid (tho does finally call him on talking about THAT but not when he got a target letter). https://t.co/YEoBYnLzRt
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) June 9, 2023
This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change.
‘Disgraced’ Trump-Appointed Florida Judge Initially Assigned to Oversee Ex-President’s Criminal Case: Report
A federal judge whose highly-controversial rulings favoring Donald Trump were derided by legal experts and judges on a higher court, has been initially assigned to the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s criminal case against the ex-president, who appointed her to the bench three years ago.
Judge Aileen Cannon, known for agreeing to Trump’s request by assigning a special master to review the entirety of federal government documents the FBI retrieved from Mar-a-Lago last summer during the execution of a search and seizure warrant will, at least for now, oversee the government’s case allegedly charging Donald Trump with seven different felony categories in its classified documents probe, according to ABC News.
“The summons sent to former President Donald Trump and his legal team late Thursday indicates that U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon will be assigned to oversee his case, at least initially, according to sources briefed on the matter,” ABC News reports.
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“Cannon’s apparent assignment would add yet another unprecedented wrinkle to a case involving the first federal charges against a former president: Trump appointed Cannon to the federal bench in 2019, meaning that, if Trump is ultimately convicted, she would be responsible for determining the sentence – which may include prison time – for the man who elevated her to the role.”
Cannon, agreeing to Trump’s request to appoint a special master last September, also halted the Dept. of Justice’s use of those materials, which included at least one hundred classified documents, in its criminal investigation into Trump.
Harvard University professor emeritus of constitutional law, Laurence Tribe, called Judge Cannon’s special master decision “utterly lawless,” and said: “She has disgraced her position as an Article III judge.”
ABC News notes that “Legal experts [had] accused Cannon of handing Trump a series of head-scratching victories over the course of those proceedings,” and added, “Cannon’s order was ultimately thrown out in its entirety by an 11th Circuit Court of appeals panel, which found she overstepped in exercising her jurisdiction in the probe.”
The 11th Circuit issued a scathing rebuke of Judge’ Cannon’s decision to appoint the special master. One week later, without explanation or reasoning, she overruled the special master’s decision and extended deadlines – decisions which favored Donald Trump.
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Cannon is not the only judge whose name appears on the summons.
“In addition to Cannon, Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart’s name also appeared on the summons sent to Trump on Thursday, the sources said,” ABC adds. “Reinhart, who was sworn in as a magistrate judge in 2018, is also familiar with the proceedings against Trump: he signed off on the initial search warrant of Mar-a-Lago last year and later ruled to unseal the search affidavit – decisions that made him the target of antisemitic jabs on the internet.”
The New York Times in August of last year reported, “in a segment on Fox News, a host showed a manipulated photo that appeared to show Judge Reinhart seated on a plane with Ghislaine Maxwell, Mr. [Jeffrey] Epstein’s companion who had been convicted last year of aiding Mr. Epstein in sexually abusing minors.”
Brian Kilmeade, the Fox News host, the following day tweeted: “Last night while subbing for Tucker Carlson, we showed you an image of Judge Bruce Reinhart w/ Ghislaine Maxwell that was sourced on screen to a meme pulled from Twitter & wasn’t real. This depiction never took place & we wanted to make clear that we were showing a meme in jest.”
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The Times noted “the scrutiny of Judge Reinhart has also prompted the local authorities to step up security. His synagogue canceled a Friday night Shabbat service last week in response to multiple antisemitic threats, and the police in his neighborhood said officers had intensified patrols near his house.”
Professor of Law Joyce Vance, an NBC News/MSNBC contributor and former U.S. Attorney responded to the news of Cannon’s assignment. Pointing to an earlier case as precedent, Vance says: “This is persuasive authority that Judge Cannon must step aside if the case falls to her as a permanent assignment. Her court & certainly the 11th [Circuit] won’t tolerate the damage it would do to their credibility if she failed to voluntarily recuse.”
Trump Lawyers Blindsided by Existence of Bombshell Recording – ‘They Don’t Know How to Defend This’: Maggie Haberman
CNN on Friday morning obtained a bombshell transcript of a recording in which former President Donald Trump boasts of retaining “secret” military information that he never declassified while he was president.
Appearing on CNN shortly after this news broke, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman revealed that the former president’s team was essentially blindsided by this recording’s existence.
“I don’t think they quite know how to defend this… from what we have heard,” she said. “They were… startled by the existence of this tape. This tape was something that they learned existed when this aide to Trump testified. The prosecutors were already in possession of this tape. They didn’t get it from the aide, although it appears the aide had a copy when it was subpoenaed later, but this is has been described to us by multiple sources… as a really problematic piece of evidence for Trump.”
Haberman predicted that the recording’s existence would not change the Trump legal team’s overall defense strategy, however.
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“I think they are going to stick that their line: ‘He says things, he didn’t mean it a certain way,'” she said. “I am sure they can come up with all kinds of explanations for why he used the language he used. But it’s on tape.”
Trump is due in court in Miami next week to face seven felony counts related to his handling of top-secret government documents.
Watch the video below or at this link.
Image via Shutterstock
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