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Fed Judge Dismisses Trump Docs Case    07/16 06:18

   A federal judge in Florida dismissed the classified documents case against 
former President Donald Trump on Monday, siding with defense lawyers who said 
the special counsel who filed the charges was illegally appointed by the 
Justice Department.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal judge in Florida dismissed the classified 
documents case against former President Donald Trump on Monday, siding with 
defense lawyers who said the special counsel who filed the charges was 
illegally appointed by the Justice Department.

   Hours later, special counsel Jack Smith's office said it would appeal the 
order, which could result in it eventually being overturned by a higher court. 
But for now at least, the dismissal by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon brings 
a stunning and abrupt halt to a criminal case that at the time it was filed was 
widely regarded as the most perilous of all the legal threats the Republican 
former president confronted.

   Though the case had long been stalled, and the prospect of a trial before 
the November election already nonexistent, the judge's order is a significant 
legal and political victory for Trump as he recovers from a weekend 
assassination attempt and prepares to accept the Republican nomination in 
Milwaukee this week.

   It's the latest stroke of good fortune in the four criminal cases Trump has 
faced. He was convicted in May in his New York hush money trial, but the 
sentencing has been postponed after a Supreme Court opinion that conferred 
broad immunity on former presidents. That opinion will cause major delays in a 
separate case charging Trump with plotting to overturn his 2020 election loss 
to Democrat Joe Biden. Another election subversion case filed in Atlanta has 
been delayed by revelations of a romantic relationship between the district 
attorney and a special prosecutor she hired for the case.

   In a statement on his social media platform, Trump said the dismissal 
"should be just the first step" and the three other cases, which he called 
"Witch Hunts," should also be thrown out.

   The classified documents case had been seen as the most legally clear-cut of 
the four given the breadth of evidence that prosecutors say they had 
accumulated, including the testimony of close aides and former lawyers, and 
because the conduct at issue occurred after Trump left the White House in 2021 
and lost the powers of the presidency.

   The indictment included dozens of felony counts accusing him of illegally 
hoarding classified records from his presidency at his Mar-a-Lago estate in 
Palm Beach, Florida, and obstructing FBI efforts to get them back. He had 
pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing.

   Defense lawyers filed multiple challenges to the case, including legally 
technical ones that asserted that special counsel Jack Smith's appointment by 
Attorney General Merrick Garland violated the Constitution's Appointments 
Clause because it did not go through Congress and that Smith's office was 
improperly funded by the Justice Department.

   Cannon agreed, writing Monday that Garland had exceeded his bounds by 
appointing a prosecutor without Senate approval and confirmation and had 
undermined the authority of Congress.

   "The Special Counsel's position effectively usurps that important 
legislative authority, transferring it to a Head of Department, and in the 
process threatening the structural liberty inherent in the separation of 
powers," Cannon wrote in a 93-page order that granted the defense team's 
request to dismiss the case but did not dissect the substance of the 
allegations against Trump.

   "If the political branches wish to grant the Attorney General power to 
appoint Special Counsel Smith to investigate and prosecute this action with the 
full powers of a United States Attorney, there is a valid means by which to do 
so," she added.

   That mechanism is through congressional approval, she said.

   A spokesman for Smith, Peter Carr, said the Justice Department had 
authorized an appeal.

   "The dismissal of the case deviates from the uniform conclusion of all 
previous courts to have considered the issue that the Attorney General is 
statutorily authorized to appoint a special counsel," Carr said in a statement.

   President Joe Biden said Monday in an interview with NBC News that he wasn't 
surprised by the decision to dismiss the case, but "the basis upon which the 
case was thrown out I find specious."

   The order is the latest example of the Trump-appointed judge handling the 
case in ways that have benefited the ex-president.

   She generated intense scrutiny during the FBI's investigation when she 
appointed an independent arbiter to inspect the classified documents recovered 
during the August 2022 search of Mar-a-Lago, a decision that was overturned 
months later by a unanimous federal appeals panel.

   Since the charges were filed, she has been slow to issue rulings -- favoring 
Trump's strategy of securing delays in all his criminal cases -- and has 
entertained defense motions and arguments that experts said other judges would 
have dispensed with without hearings. In May, she indefinitely canceled the 
trial date amid a series of unresolved legal issues.

   Smith's team had vigorously contested the Appointments Clause argument 
during hearings before Cannon last month, saying Justice Department leadership 
has full authority to name and fund a special counsel. Attorneys general 
appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents have named special 
counsels without the permission of Congress, going back years.

   Prosecutors had also noted that Trump's position had been rejected in other 
courts involving other prosecutions brought by other Justice Department special 
counsels.

   For instance, Trump-appointed judges in the federal tax and firearms cases 
against Biden's son, Hunter, dismissed similar arguments several months ago. 
The younger Biden was convicted of three felonies in the gun case in June and 
is scheduled for trial in September in the tax case.

   The appointment of another special counsel Robert Mueller, selected by 
Trump's Justice Department to investigate potential ties between Russia and 
Trump's 2016 campaign, was also upheld as lawful by a District of Columbia 
judge.

   But Cannon remained unpersuaded, and she called the prosecution's claims 
"strained." The Trump team's position got a boost this month in a Supreme Court 
ruling that said former presidents enjoy expansive immunity from prosecution, 
with Justice Clarence Thomas writing a separate concurrence questioning whether 
Smith had been legally appointed.

   No other justice signed on to the concurrence, which Thomas said he wrote to 
"highlight another way in which this prosecution may violate our constitutional 
structure." Thomas wrote that lower courts should weigh whether the office had 
been "established by law," and Cannon cited that concurrence several times in 
her order.

   "Both the Appointments and Appropriations challenges as framed in the Motion 
raise the following threshold question: is there a statute in the United States 
Code that authorizes the appointment of Special Counsel Smith to conduct this 
prosecution?" she said. "After careful study of this seminal issue, the answer 
is no."

   Trump lawyer Chris Kise praised Cannon for what he said was a "courageous 
and correct decision."

   "Judge Cannon today restored the rule of law and made the right call for 
America. Jack Smith is not above the law and must be held accountable under the 
Constitution," Kise said.

 
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