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Judge Denies One of Trump’s Efforts to Derail Documents Case

The federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of mishandling classified documents on Thursday rejected one of his motions seeking to have the case dismissed, the first time she has denied a legal attack on the indictment.

In a two-page order, the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, rebuffed arguments by Mr. Trump’s lawyers that the central statute in the indictment, the Espionage Act, was impermissibly vague and should be struck down entirely.

The decision by Judge Cannon followed a nearly daylong hearing in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla., where she entertained arguments from Mr. Trump’s legal team and from prosecutors in the office of the special counsel Jack Smith about the Espionage Act. The government says the former president violated that law 32 times by removing a trove of highly sensitive classified material from the White House after he left office.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers had claimed that certain phrases in the text of the law — for instance, its requirement that prosecutors prove defendants took “unauthorized possession” of documents “relating to the national defense” — were so ambiguous and open to debate as to be unenforceable.

Read the Rejection of Trump’s Motion to Dismiss the Documents Case

Judge Aileen M. Cannon rebuffed arguments by former President Donald J. Trump’s lawyers that the Espionage Act was impermissibly vague and should be struck down entirely.

Read Document

During the hearing, Judge Cannon, who was appointed by Mr. Trump near the end of his term, seemed skeptical about the assault on the statute. As Mr. Trump and Mr. Smith sat in front of her on opposite sides of the courtroom, she said it would be an “extraordinary” move for a judge to unilaterally strike down the Espionage Act, the chief federal law governing the handling of classified material.

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