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Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump
| Photo Credit: Reuters

Federal prosecutors in the U.S. chided the judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s classified documents case in Florida, warning her off potential jury instructions that they said rest on a “fundamentally flawed legal premise.”

In an unusual order, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon had asked prosecutors and defence lawyers to file proposed jury instructions for most of the charges even though it remains unclear when the case might reach trial. She asked the lawyers to respond to competing interpretations of the law that appeared to accept the Republican ex-President’s argument that he was entitled under a statute known as the Presidential Records Act to retain the sensitive documents he is now charged with possessing.

Alarming order

The order surprised legal experts and alarmed special counsel Jack Smith’s team, which said in a filing late on Tuesday that the 1978 law — which requires Presidents to return presidential records to the government upon leaving office but permits them to retain purely personal ones — has no relevance in a case concerning highly classified documents.

Those records, prosecutors said, were clearly not personal and there is no evidence Mr. Trump ever designated them as such.

Mr. Smith’s team said that if the judge insists on citing the presidential records law in her jury instructions, she should let the lawyers know as soon as possible so they can appeal.

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