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Trump again asks court to dismiss classified documents case

Attorneys for Donald Trump on Monday filed a motion to dismiss charges filed against the former president based on the documentation of evidence seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate during an August 2022 raid. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
Attorneys for Donald Trump on Monday filed a motion to dismiss charges filed against the former president based on the documentation of evidence seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate during an August 2022 raid. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

June 12 (UPI) -- Donald Trump has again asked a federal judge to dismiss his classified documents case, this time on the grounds that the FBI "destroyed exculpatory evidence" during its raid of the former president's Mar-a-Lago estate.

Trump's defense argued in a filing made late Monday but announced by the former president's campaign Tuesday that FBI agents who raided Mar-a-Lago in August of 2022 mishandled the documenting of evidence, which could have been used to fight against the government's accusation that the former president was aware he was in possession of the classified records.

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"The government was more interested in staging -- and leaking -- manipulated photographs to the press than preserving key exculpatory evidence that has now been lost forever," Trump's defense said in the filing.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 41 counts related to the retention of classified documents and efforts to obstruct the federal investigation. Prosecutors accuse the former president of illegally retaining the documents after leaving the White House and then failing to hand them over, resulting in the FBI raiding his Mar-a-Lago estate.

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It was during the raid that the FBI seized tens of boxes containing classified documents and personal possessions, and Trump's defense on Tuesday is accusing the agents of not maintaining the order in which the documents were seized and properly documenting exactly where they were seized from.

His lawyers argue that they now don't know if boxes contained items such as newspaper and letters dated before Trump was in office along with confidential information, which "would have been potentially useful, and likely powerful in some instances, for the defense to be able to use this proximity to show how long the allegedly classified documents had resided in those boxes."

"The fact that the allegedly classified documents were buried in boxes and commingled with President Trump's personal effects from his first term in office strongly supported the defense argument that he lacked knowledge and culpable criminal intent with respect to the documents at issue," they said in the filing.

"Any proximity between allegedly classified documents and other dated materials from years before the move, such as letters and newspapers, would have further strengthened this argument."

These claims have been raised by Trump's team during the court case before. And special counsel Jack Smith, who filed the charges against the former president, acknowledged potential discrepancies between when the documents were seized from Mar-a-Lago and when they were scanned to create inventories of the evidence.

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In a May filing, Smith said there are some boxes where the order of items within is not the same as the associated scans, stating this is because of when the boxes were accessed as well as the size and shape of items in the boxes.

"The boxes contain items smaller than standard paper such as index cards, books and stationary, which shift easily when the boxes are carried, especially because many of the boxes are not full," he said.

Walt Nauta, Trump's former valet, and former Mar-a-Lago maintenance worker Carlos De Oliveira are co-defendants in the case.

The filing late Monday came on the heels of District Judge Aileen Cannon rejecting Trump's request to dismiss several charges filed against him in the case.

While rejecting the move, she did remove a single paragraph from the indictment, calling it prejudicial.

In their filing Monday night, Trump's attorneys asked Cannon to throw out all evidence seized in the Mar-a-Lago raid.

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