Trump moves to dismiss charges accusing him of mishandling classified documents

FILE PHOTO: Trump participates in a Fox News town hall with Laura Ingraham in Greenville

By Andrew Goudsward

(Reuters) -Former U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday asked a federal judge to dismiss criminal charges accusing him of illegally holding onto sensitive U.S. national security documents when he left office, arguing the prosecution is legally flawed.

Lawyers for Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, challenged the appointment of Special Counsel Jack Smith, argued the charges conflict with another U.S. law on the use of presidential records, and claimed the central charge in the case is improperly vague.

Trump also claimed he was immune from charges he unlawfully retained national security documents because the allegations stem from decisions he made in his final weeks as president.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to a 40-count indictment in Florida federal court accusing him of illegally retaining classified documents at his Florida resort after leaving office in 2021 and obstructing U.S. government attempts to retrieve them.

Prosecutors working with Smith accused Trump of keeping documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida that included information about the U.S. nuclear program and potential domestic vulnerabilities.

Trump sought to conceal boxes containing classified papers after receiving a grand jury subpoena demanding their return, according to the indictment.

Trump has made presidential immunity claims in both federal and state cases accusing him of illegally attempting to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.

A U.S. appeals court in Washington rejected the argument in the federal election case this month, and Trump has appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Prosecutors in the classified documents case called Trump’s immunity claim “frivolous” in a previous court filing, noting the conduct charged in the indictment all occurred after Trump left the White House.

Trump may be allowed to immediately appeal a denial of his immunity claim, potentially delaying the documents case as it has done with the federal election case.

Trump was charged alongside his personal aide, Walt Nauta, and Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos de Oliveira. Both have pleaded not guilty.

De Oliveria also moved on Thursday to dismiss the charges against him. Nauta was expected to file a similar legal motion.

A trial is scheduled to begin in May, but Trump has sought a delay. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has scheduled a March 1 hearing on the timing of the trial.

Trump’s lawyers have signaled they have or will also seek dismissal of the case before the deadline by arguing Trump was selectively targeted by prosecutors and that prosecutors committed misconduct during the investigation.

The court filings have not been made public while Cannon determines if some information should be redacted.

(Reporting by Andrew Goudsward and Eric Beech; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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