Federal Judge Aileen Cannon recently issued an order clarifying the rules for handling classified information in former President Donald Trump’s ongoing legal battle about government documents found in his Mar-a-Lago estate, and some see it as a clear indication that Trump will be losing this case.
In June, Donald Trump found himself facing a total of 37 charges related to his handling of classified documents after leaving office.
These charges included 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information, along with several other counts like conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding documents, and making false statements.
The Mar-A-Lago Raid
These allegations came from an investigation led by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith. In August 2022, the FBI conducted a raid at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, recovering over 100 classified documents.
In response to these allegations, Trump has consistently denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The Judge Clarifies
Judge Cannon, who presides over the case as a U.S. District judge in Florida, clarified the status of classified documents in her recent order.
She stated, “All classified documents … shall remain classified unless the documents or material bear a clear indication that they have been declassified by the agency or department that is the originating agency of the document.”
In a Nut Shell
Judge Cannon said classified documents will remain confidential unless officially declassified by the relevant government agency.
Attorney Bradley Moss told Newsweek, “This order largely sidestepped or outright rejected Mr. Trump’s rather preposterous requests for how he could access and discuss information currently identified by the government as classified.”
Trump’s Use of Classified Information
Judge Cannon’s order allows for the disclosure of classified information to Trump’s defense team, but solely for the purpose of preparing his defense.
Since Trump has earned a less-than-ideal reputation with classified information, this measure hopes to ensure that any sensitive information provided is used responsibly and exclusively for legal proceedings.
Legal experts, including attorney Ty Cobb, noted that Judge Cannon’s order follows standard procedure in cases involving classified documents and should not be seen as a victory for any party.
The Problem With Trump’s Defense
Ty Cobb stated, “I wouldn’t read that much into it in terms of rejecting Trump’s defense, but that’s always been the problem with Trump’s defense…it’s not consistent with what the law says.”
Challenging Trump’s Claim
Trump previously said that, as president, he possessed the authority to declassify government materials at his discretion.
However, legal experts argue that this claim contradicts established legal principles, and now Judge Cannon’s order clearly challenges this claim.
Needing a Clear Directive
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg emphasized that Judge Cannon’s order safeguards the classification of documents, insisting that they cannot be declassified without a clear directive.
Won’t Cut It
When discussing Trump’s claim Aronberg said, “Declassification via mental telepathy won’t cut it.”
Pouring Cold Water
When asked if Cannon’s order would limit Trump’s power and legal position, Aronberg said, “She poured cold water on his claims to have declassified the documents absent a clear directive.”
One observer commented on this development, “Unless he can prove he declassified any of the documents, this is a non-winner for him.”
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