Judge strikes paragraph from Trump classified docs indictment but denies request to dismiss charges

The federal judge presiding over the classified documents case against former President Donald Trump and two of his associates has struck a paragraph from the indictment but denied a defense request to dismiss some of the charges
Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Sunday, June 9, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Sunday, June 9, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal judge presiding over the classified documents case against former President Donald Trump and two of his associates struck a paragraph from the indictment on Monday but denied a defense request to dismiss some of the charges.

The paragraph concerns allegations that Trump, in 2021 and while no longer president, showed a classified map of a foreign country to a representative of his political action committee while discussing a military operation that he said was not going well.

Defense lawyers said the paragraph was prejudicial because it was not connected to any crime charged in the indictment, which accuses Trump of illegally retaining classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon on Monday agreed that the inclusion of the language in the indictment was “not appropriate.”

The ruling has minimal practical effect on the case since Cannon left the rest of the indictment intact, denying in her 14-page order a request to dismiss any of the actual charges. Yet even as she rejected the defense bid to toss multiple counts, she chided special counsel Jack Smith's team for having included in the indictment language that she said was "legally unnecessary to serve the function of an indictment" and for creating "arguable confusion" in some of the wording.

A spokesman for Smith declined to comment Monday night.

The motion to dismiss the counts is one of multiple pretrial requests and disputes that for months have piled up before Cannon, snarling the progress of the case and prompting the judge last month to indefinitely postpone a trial that had been set for May 20 in Fort Pierce, Fla.

She has scheduled additional arguments for later this month, including on a Trump challenge to the legality and funding of the Justice Department's appointment of Smith as special counsel last year.

The delays in the case are all the more startling given that many legal experts had seen the classified documents prosecution as exceedingly straightforward in its allegations that Trump illegally hoarded classified documents from his presidency at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., and obstructed FBI efforts to get them back.

The prosecution is one of four criminal cases Trump is facing as he seeks to reclaim the White House. He was convicted last month of all 34 felony charges in the hush money case in New York, but the other three cases seem unlikely to reach trial before the November presidential election in which Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee.

The defendants in this particular motion had sought to throw out more than a half-dozen counts in the indictment, which also accuses Trump of conspiring with valet Walt Nauta and Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira to conceal the sensitive files from the government.

The defendants had challenged counts related to obstruction and false statements that they said were duplicative and in some cases prejudicial.

But Cannon said in an order Monday that "the identified deficiencies, even if generating some arguable confusion, are either permitted by law, raise evidentiary challenges not appropriate for disposition at this juncture, and/or do not require dismissal even if technically deficient, so long as the jury is instructed appropriately and presented with adequate verdict forms as to each Defendants’ alleged conduct."

The judge has already rejected multiple other motions to dismiss the case, including one that suggested that Trump was authorized under a statute known as the Presidential Records Act to keep the documents with him after he left the White House and to designate them as his personal files.