Prosecutor accuses Trump's lawyers of 'hijacking' hearing in classified docs case

The two sides wrapped up three days of hearings Tuesday.

June 25, 2024, 5:12 PM

The third and final day of hearings in Donald Trump's classified documents case reached a heated conclusion after prosecutor for special counsel Jack Smith accused the former president's lawyers of "hijacking" the hearings with far-fetched allegations about the case.

"There is no hijacking going on -- it's about to end," U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon responded, cutting off prosecutor David Harbach.

"It's not fair," Harbach responded, arguing that Trump's lawyers effectively "hijacked" the hearing by raising issues that have "nothing to do" with the matters before the court.

Cannon had convened the hearings to hear arguments over the defense's requests to have the case dismissed, as well as their efforts to limit prosecutors' use of selected evidence.

Trump pleaded not guilty last year to 40 criminal counts related to his handling of classified materials after leaving the White House, after prosecutors said he repeatedly refused to return hundreds of documents containing classified information and took steps to thwart the government's efforts to get the documents back.

Trump has denied all charges and denounced the probe as a political witch hunt.

Judge Cannon concluded Tuesday's hearing without issuing any ruling from the bench. The judge generally appeared skeptical of the defense argument that the evidence seized from the FBI's August 2022 search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate should be tossed because of a lack of specificity in the search warrant.

Former President Donald Trump walks on stage to deliver the keynote address at the Faith & Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority Policy Conference, June 22, 2024, in Washington.
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

During the 90-minute hearing, Cannon repeatedly told Trump's lawyers she was "unclear" how they believed the warrant and subsequent search should have been conducted, saying their arguments appeared "far afield."

Trump's lawyers argued that the FBI agents who searched the property were given vague instructions about how to conduct the search, that the affidavit in the search warrant omitted key details, and that raid of Mar-a-Lago went too far by including searches of the bedrooms of Trump's wife and youngest son.

"This was an enormous piece of property. We are not talking about the search of a residential piece of property in the suburbs. It's not an apartment in the city," defense lawyer Emil Bove argued.

"What's your point? It's a large property," Cannon responded. "You would agree paperwork is a sort of thing that can be located anywhere."

However, Cannon pushed Harbach to explain why FBI agents extended their search to the bedrooms, rather than just the storage room and office where classified documents were stored.

"Was there any evidence the boxes were moved to the child's room?" Cannon asked.

"No direct evidence of that," said Harbach, who nonetheless argued that it would have been "irresponsible not to search there" because they believed Trump moved boxes and stored them in odd locations, including a bathroom shower. Harbach insisted that during the search there was "no rummaging anywhere, least of all in either of those locations."

Bove also argued that prosecutors made significant omissions -- including that Trump had a right to possess classified documents as president -- when they applied for the search warrant.

Cannon appeared unconvinced, remarking she was "failing to see why adding into the affidavit the undisputed and obvious point" would make a difference.

"The key is post-presidency," Cannon remarked about Trump's alleged retention of classified documents.

While Bove pushed that the warrant for Mar-a-Lago "authorizes way too much," Harbach emphatically defended the conduct of prosecutors and the FBI agents who conducted the search.

"There was nothing egregious about how the search was conducted at all," Harbach said.

Cannon, who over the last year has made a series of rulings supporting the defense, signaled a clear willingness to side with prosecutors on the issue of the search, remarking that she had a "hard time" buying the defense argument before the hearing erupted over accusations of legal "hijacking."

"Can we just stay focused on this motion, please?" Cannon told Bove at one point as the judge grew frustrated with the arguments from both sides.

Earlier in the hearing, she implored Harbach to "please try not to put words in my mouth."

"I didn't mean to try to put words in your mouth, your honor," Harbach responded.

Cannon, during the hearing, did not address the admissibility of notes by Trump's former lead attorney Evan Corcoran -- but noted at the start of the hearing that the topic of the "presumptively privileged material" was discussed under seal during the morning session.

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