Trump’s bids to throw out two cases rejected

Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts for allegedly falsifying records.

Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts for allegedly falsifying records. Photo: AAP

A Georgia judge has rejected Donald Trump’s bid to dismiss criminal charges in the state’s 2020 election interference case against him, which the Republican former US president argued violate his free speech rights.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee on Thursday found the indictment alleges statements by Trump and 14 others charged in the case were made “in furtherance of criminal activity” and are not protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Trump and the other defendants have been charged with racketeering and other offences over their effort to overturn Trump’s defeat in Georgia to Democratic President Joe Biden. They have pleaded not guilty.

The case is one of four criminal prosecutions Trump faces as the November 5 election nears.

His first trial, related to hush money payments to a porn star, is due to get under way in New York later in April.

The Georgia charges focus on attempts to assemble an alternate slate of presidential electors pledged to vote for Trump despite Biden’s win in the state, and Trump’s January 2021 phone call urging the state’s top election official to “find” enough votes to overturn his narrow defeat.

McAfee’s ruling is a signal he will continue moving the case toward trial even as Trump and eight co-defendants continue their efforts to disqualify Fani Willis, the prosecutor overseeing the case. A Georgia appeals court is set to decide whether to take up that issue in the coming weeks.

McAfee said it will be up to a jury to determine if Trump and other defendants, which include his former personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, acted with criminal intent.

He said the defendants may be able to revive their challenge as additional evidence is revealed.

Trump has other pending challenges to the case, including a claim that he is immune from charges tied to official actions he took as president.

Documents case bid also goes south

In another of the cases against the former president, A US federal judge has rejected Trump’s argument that the case accusing him of illegally holding onto classified documents should be thrown out on the basis of his argument that they were his personal records rather than government property.

Florida-based US District Judge Aileen Cannon on Thursday ruled against a motion by Trump’s lawyers to have the case dismissed in her latest decision to allow the case – one of four criminal indictments against him – to continue.

Trump, the Republican challenger to Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 5 US election, had argued that his retention of highly sensitive documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after leaving office in 2021 was authorised under a US law that lets former presidents keep personal records unrelated to their official responsibilities.

Prosecutors in the case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith have said the documents relate to US military and intelligence matters, including details about the American nuclear program, and could not be construed as personal.

Cannon had expressed scepticism at a March 14 court hearing that the case should be dismissed based on Trump’s argument, but said at that time that it may have “some force” as a defence at trial.

The judge on March 18 then directed the prosecution and defence to propose jury instructions based on two legal scenarios assuming Trump’s argument would play a role at trial.

Smith pushed back on that order, which prosecutors argued was based on a flawed premise that the presidential records law is relevant to whether Trump was authorised to keep classified documents.

Cannon, who was nominated to the bench by Trump, responded to that criticism on Thursday, saying her prior order was a “genuine attempt, in the context of the upcoming trial, to better understand the parties’ competing positions.”

The judge spurned Smith’s demand that she quickly decide whether the personal documents claim will be relevant to the trial, saying making a decision at this stage would be “unprecedented and unjust.” Smith has said prosecutors would need time to appeal any such ruling.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 40 federal counts accusing him of illegally retaining sensitive documents and obstructing US government efforts to retrieve them.

Trump discussed with his lawyers the possibility of lying to investigators and concealed boxes of records after the government demanded their return, according to the indictment.

Trump was not authorised to keep secret information related to US national security after leaving the White House even if he viewed the records as personal, according to prosecutors.

Cannon previously rejected Trump’s bid to throw out the central charge against him – violating a portion of a federal law called the Espionage Act concerning wilful retention of national security records – based on claims that the charge was improperly vague.

Trump, who has called all four criminal indictments against him politically motivated, still has several pending challenges to the documents case, including arguments that he has presidential immunity from prosecution and that he was selectively targeted by prosecutors.

A trial is currently scheduled for May 20, but both sides have acknowledged it will be delayed. Cannon has yet ruled on competing proposals for a new schedule.



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