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Takeaways from the hearing on Trump’s attempt to dismiss the mishandling classified documents charges

US District Court Judge Aileen Cannon on Thursday declined to toss out the classified documents case against Donald Trump after hours-long arguments in part over whether the charges against the former president were too vague.

Before the judge were two of the nine motions to dismiss that the defendants have filed in the case.

Cannon first heard Trump’s claim that the law prosecutors used to charge him for allegedly retaining national defense records without authorization was too vague to be used against him. Fewer than three hours after the hearing, Cannon rejected that claim.

Trump’s second motion argued that the Presidential Records Act – which governs how White House records are handled by an outgoing administration – required that the case be thrown out.

Cannon hasn’t yet ruled on the second claim. The judge, however, expressed skepticism during the hearing toward both requests for the charges to be dismissed, and she suggested that some of the issues the Trump legal team was raising would be better left to a jury to consider.

Here’s what to know from Thursday’s hearing:

Throwing out charges because law was vague would be ‘extraordinary,’ judge says

The morning session was focused on Trump’s ultimately rejected argument that the law prohibiting the unlawful retention of national defense information was too ambiguous to be applied to his alleged conduct.

Cannon said it would be an “extraordinary step” for her to throw out those charges on the basis that they were unconstitutionally vague.

“You understand, of course, that finding a statute unconstitutionally vague is an extraordinary step,” she told Trump attorney Emile Bove.

Bove responded: “I understand that it is significant, but it’s warranted here.”

Cannon: Trump’s arguments would ‘gut’ the Presidential Records Act

The judge was similarly skeptical of the second Trump request being argued Thursday: that, because he has supposedly unlimited power to decide which documents from his White House were personal, the case against him should be dismissed.

Cannon said that Trump’s lawyers were making some “forceful” arguments his ability to designate the records as personal by taking them to his Mar-a-Lago resort at the end of his presidency.

But, she repeatedly suggested, their argument hinged on facts that were still in dispute and thus were not an appropriate basis for dismissing the indictment.

“It’s difficult to see how this gets you to the dismissal of an indictment,” the judge told Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche.

Cannon said the defense’s arguments would effectively “gut the PRA altogether” and allow future presidents to say clearly presidential documents are personal — an argument the Justice Department has made in court papers in the case.

Cannon said some of Trump’s concerns should be up to the jury

The judge repeatedly said Thursday that some of Trump’s arguments are best suited for a jury to decide during his eventual trial.

On multiple occasions, Cannon pushed Trump’s attorneys over whether their arguments – specifically that Trump didn’t know he was breaking the law when he took documents to Mar-a-Lago – were “premature.”

Cannon said, however, that the arguments could be a “forceful” trial defense, signaling she is sympathetic to some of the former president’s complaints about the criminal case.

“Your arguments might have some force, again, as it comes to a trial defense,” Cannon said, adding that it is “difficult to see how this gets to dismissal.”

Attorneys bicker over actions of Reagan, Clinton and Biden

Trump’s attorneys have repeatedly pointed to past presidents who they say kept classified material in the same way as Trump but were not prosecuted.

Ronald Reagan, they said, kept his own journals from his presidency that included some classified information, and Bill Clinton kept tape recordings from his presidency in his sock drawer.

Defense attorneys also repeatedly raised the special counsel probe into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified information, saying that Biden has kept documents from his time as vice president but wasn’t prosecuted.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s office, however, emphasized the differences they saw between Trump and his predecessors. Reagan’s journals were more akin to “personal records” as defined under the Presidential Records Act, they said. In Clinton’s case, the tapes were never reviewed and therefore never confirmed to contain classified information.

As for Biden, prosecutors stressed that they had no “insight” into special counsel Robert Hur’s investigation, which concluded without charges.”

Even with other former presidents, there was never a situation remotely similar to this one,” prosecutor Jay Bratt said.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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