Judge Cannon Orders Hearing for Trump to Challenge Mar-a-Lago Search

U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon said Thursday she will schedule a hearing for Donald Trump’s lawyers to challenge some of the evidence against him for allegedly mishandling classified documents and obstructing government efforts to retrieve them.

In an 11-page order, the judge said “additional factual developments are necessary” regarding Trump’s challenge to the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago – his home and private club in Florida. FBI agents searched his home on August 8, 2022, finding 103 classified documents that ultimately led to his indictment.

The former president, who is President Biden’s presumptive Republican challenger in the November election, seeks to suppress much of that evidence by arguing that the search warrant was defective.

As part of his ruling, Cannon also said Trump’s defense attorneys were entitled to a hearing to determine whether prosecutors misused statements made by one of Trump’s former attorneys.

Cannon said she would issue a separate order shortly on when she would hear those issues in court.

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung praised the ruling, calling Cannon a “highly respected” judge and said the Justice Department had mistreated Trump. “The whole documents affair was a political sham from the start and it should be completely dismissed,” Cheung said.

Trump attorney Emil Bove argued in this week’s hearings that an FBI agent’s affidavit providing probable cause for the Mar-a-Lago search was too vague, particularly when it used the phrases “national defense information” and “presidential records” to describe the type of documents sought. Cannon found that argument reasonable and sufficient justification for an evidentiary hearing.

Special prosecutor Jack Smith had insisted that no further hearing on the matter was necessary because the search warrant and affidavit had been drafted with extreme care, and Trump had benefited from the extra consideration – and highly unusual – to also submit a letter from Trump’s lawyer to the magistrate judge who approved the search warrant.

Smith had also opposed a hearing to probe Trump’s claims of attorney-client privilege, which seeks to prevent prosecutors from using at trial a series of audio notes taken by Evan Corcoran, who worked as Trump’s lawyer on the documents issue.

A federal judge in Washington had previously ruled that Corcoran’s account could be used as evidence in the case because of the fraud exception to attorney-client privilege, which allows the use of communications that may have been made in furtherance of a crime. Cannon said Thursday that she, as the judge overseeing the Florida indictment, must make her own decision.

She rejected one request Trump made in her order: a request for what lawyers call a Franks hearing, to determine whether the FBI agent made false statements when submitting a sworn affidavit for the search warrant. In that regard, Cannon ruled that Trump’s lawyers had not met the legal standard required to make such a claim.

During this week’s hearings, prosecutors lost patience with the arguments of the defense and, at one point, with the judge herself.

The classified documents trial was originally scheduled to begin last month, but Cannon has taken a slower route, with hearings exploring the details of not only how prosecutors and agents investigated the case, but also how special prosecutors are appointed and funded – much to the frustration of Special Prosecutor Smith and his team.

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