Cannon rejects Trump claims FBI botched Mar-a-Lago search

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Judge Aileen Cannon rejected claims from Donald Trump that law enforcement misled the court in order to search Mar-a-Lago but kept alive other bids by the former president seeking to limit the use of key evidence, scheduling additional hearings in the dragging case.

Cannon rejected Trump’s request for a “Franks hearing” to review whether prosecutors made any false statements or omissions in crafting the warrant, determining Trump had not met the bar for additional examination.

While the ruling from Cannon denies a Trump effort seeking to toss the bulk of the evidence gathered from his home, she said further hearings would be needed to weigh two other arguments from Trump.

That includes a challenge to another provision within the warrant, and a request that she reexamine a decision that lifted attorney-client privilege from a former Trump attorney and allowed prosecutors to access some of his files.

Cannon brushed off concerns about the further hearings from special counsel Jack Smith’s team, writing it would not “devolve into a ‘mini trial.’” 

“There is a difference between a resource-wasting and delay-producing “mini-trial,” on the one hand, and an evidentiary hearing geared to adjudicating the contested factual and legal issues on a given pre-trial motion to suppress, on the other,” Cannon wrote.

While the ruling comes swiftly after three days of hearings that ended earlier this week, the additional hearings ordered by Cannon adds more time spent on the mounting unresolved issues before her.

An appeals court last March ordered then-Trump attorney Evan Corcoran to testify before the grand jury examining Trump’s mishandling of classified records. The decision pierced attorney-client privilege – a rare move allowed when a judge determines an attorney’s services were used in furtherance of a crime.

Corcoran provided key testimony to the later indictment accusing Trump of obstruction of justice.

Corcoran provided key evidence that Trump asked him to “pluck” out certain classified records when he was preparing to turn over classified records in response to a subpoena. The indictment also alleges Trump moved boxes to conceal them from Corcoran.

In doing so, Cannon wrote that “it is the obligation of this Court to make factual findings afresh on the crime-fraud issue,” including weighing Trump’s dispute that Corcoran was involved in criminal activity.

Cannon also said further hearings were needed to evaluate Trump’s challenge to a portion of the warrant that lays out instructions for searching his home, directing law enforcement agents as to what property should be seized.

Cannon suggested that directions to take “presidential records” and “national defense information” may not have been clear. The Espionage Act prohibits the mishandling of national defense information, which covers classified records as well as any other information important to the national defense.

Both the terms, Cannon wrote, “do not carry ‘generally understood meaning[s]’ such that a law enforcement agent, without further clarification, would have known to identify such material as ‘seizable’ property.”

Thursday’s ruling comes as former judicial officials and legal observers are becoming increasingly vocal with their concern about Cannon’s handling of the case.

The bulk of that criticism has been centered on the numerous delays in the trial, both in terms of Cannon’s failure to quickly resolve motions to toss the case filed by Trump.

Cannon indefinitely postponed Trump’s trial in May, determining it would not be appropriate to set a trial date until she had weighed the other legal issues before her.

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