Judge Aileen Cannon denies another Trump motion to dismiss classified documents case

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida

A federal judge on Monday denied an effort to dismiss former President Donald Trump's classified documents case, but agreed to delete a paragraph in the federal superseding indictment against the former president.

While rejecting defendants' efforts to dismiss the obstruction and false statement counts of the indictment, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon sided with them in finding that special counsel Jack Smith's office cannot include allegations about an incident in which Trump allegedly showed a “PAC Representative,” identified in many public reports as Susie Wiles, a classified map of a particular foreign country where an “ongoing military operation” was “not going well."

Trump and his co-defendants, Walt Nauta and Carlos DeOliveira, had asked Cannon to strike a variety of what they characterized as prejudicial allegations. Cannon wrote that she agreed “that much of the language in the Superseding Indictment is legally unnecessary to serve the function of an indictment” as detailed in case law. She further noted “the risks that can flow from a prosecutor’s decision to include in a charging document an extensive narrative account of his or her view of the facts, especially in cases of significant public interest.”

But ultimately, Cannon agreed to strike only paragraph 36, which details the map incident.

Cannon struck that paragraph after finding its sole purpose in the indictment was to highlight a prior bad act of the former president, noting that evidence of a defendant’s prior crimes or wrongs are usually litigated after notice to the defendant of how the prosecution intends to use that evidence and related motion practice.

A campaign spokesperson and an attorney for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday night.

The incident concerning the map is not a principal focus of the case, which alleges the former president willfully retained national defense information in connection with classified documents that were uncovered at his Florida estate after he left office and that he ordered a Mar-a-Lago staffer to delete security video at the property. Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges and the trial has been indefinitely postponed.

Trump’s legal team also submitted a separate motion to dismiss the classified documents case on Monday, saying the charges should be dropped because the FBI agents who searched Mar-a-Lago did not preserve the original order in which the documents and other papers were placed in Trump’s boxes — destroying “exculpatory evidence supporting one of the most basic defenses available to President Trump,” they wrote.

“The Special Counsel’s Office has wrongfully alleged that President Trump was aware of the contents of boxes in August 2022, where those boxes were packed by others in the White House and moved to Florida in January 2021,” Todd Blanche, Chris Kise and Emil Bove wrote. “The fact that the allegedly classified documents were buried in boxes and comingled with President Trump’s personal effects from his first term in office strongly supported the defense argument that he lacked knowledge and culpable criminal intent with respect to the documents at issue.”

The special counsel's office declined to comment to NBC News on Trump's motion.

In a statement included in the filing by the former president's defense lawyers, the special counsel's office said Trump had "failed to provide factual or legal support for a spoliation claim under controlling Eleventh Circuit and Supreme Court caselaw. The Government has met and exceeded its discovery and other legal obligations. The defendant’s misconduct allegations are, once again, false."

In a court filing last month, the special counsel's office outlined the procedures during the search of Mar-a-Lago, saying an initial "filter team took care to ensure that no documents were moved from one box to another, but it was not focused on maintaining the sequence of documents within each box." The filing added that if the separate investigative team then found a document with classification markings, they "removed the document, segregated it, and replaced it with a placeholder sheet."

Investigators "seized any box that was found to contain documents with classification markings or presidential records," the filing said.

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