Trump cites Biden classified records probe as he seeks to toss documents case

Former U.S. President Trump's criminal trial on charges of falsifying business records continues in New York

By Andrew Goudsward

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump cited U.S. President Joe Biden’s mishandling of classified documents after leaving the vice presidency as he seeks to have criminal charges related to his own retention of sensitive records tossed out, court filings showed on Thursday.

Trump, the former president and the Republican challenger to Democrat Biden in the Nov. 5 election, argued that the decision not to charge Biden and other senior U.S. officials who mishandled classified information shows he is being selectively targeted by prosecutors.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who is overseeing the case and who was nominated by Trump, will rule on Trump's challenge. Cannon, who has been receptive to some of Trump's defense arguments, has questioned prosecutors at prior court hearings about why former presidents and vice presidents found to be in possession of potentially classified documents were not charged.

Trump faces a high legal bar in showing that he was selectively targeted and such challenges are rarely successful, but the argument aligns with Trump's campaign message that he is a victim of political persecution.

"American history is chock full of public examples involving alleged mishandling of classified information and documents, which did not result in the type of politically motivated charges that the Special Counsel’s Office has brought against President Trump and his codefendants," Trump’s lawyers wrote in a court filing.

The arguments came in a document filed under seal in February and made public with some redactions on Thursday.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of illegally retaining information related to U.S. national security at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after he left the presidency in 2021 and obstructing government efforts to retrieve the documents.

Trump, the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges, has been indicted in four separate cases and is on trial in New York state court over allegations that he falsified records to pay hush money to a porn star ahead of the 2016 election.

Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the documents prosecution, argued in a previous court filing that Trump’s alleged obstruction -- including instructing aides to move boxes containing classified documents and attempting to convince his lawyer to lie to investigators – differentiate Trump’s case from Biden's.

Robert Hur, the special counsel who investigated classified documents found at Biden’s home and former offices, noted Biden's cooperation with his probe and cited "material distinctions" with Trump's case in a report published in February. Hur declined to bring criminal charges against Biden, but found some evidence that Biden willfully held onto sensitive material after he left the vice presidency in 2017.

Cannon previously rejected two of Trump's other attempts to dismiss the charges.

(Reporting by Andrew Goudsward; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)