Judge seems skeptical of Trump bid to remove from trial classified docs seized at Mar-a-Lago

The Florida federal judge in charge of Donald Trump's classified documents case appears poised to allow prosecutors to use documents seized by the FBI from the former president's private club.

Trump's legal team has argued that the FBI might have lost its court request for a search warrant if the bureau had disclosed that its officials debated asking Trump's lawyers for permission to search his Palm Beach-based Mar-a-Lago club. But Judge Aileen Cannon indicated at a Tuesday hearing that she failed to see the significance of such debate.

"Why would that have mattered legally?" Cannon asked. "Couldn't it just be that reasonable minds disagree?"

United States District Judge Aileen Cannon, of the Southern District of Florida, is pictured in this 2021 portrait.
United States District Judge Aileen Cannon, of the Southern District of Florida, is pictured in this 2021 portrait.

Cannon also said at the hearing she was "failing to see" why the search was legally problematic.

Cannon expressed skepticism of Trump's argument despite having been criticized by experts for multiple previous Trump-friendly rulings that appeared to deviate from legal norms, including temporarily blocking investigators from examining seized documents before the charges were brought. That decision was reversed by a panel of three Republican-appointed appellate judges. Trump nominated Cannon to the federal bench in 2020.

The FBI recovered more than 100 documents through the August, 2022 raid. Trump wants the documents excluded from the prosecution that has been brought against him by special counsel Jack Smith for allegedly willfully retaining national defense information after his presidency.

The Tuesday proceedings capped three days of hearings in the criminal case. Cannon appeared skeptical Monday as the prosecution argued that Trump should be gagged after he said President Joe Biden was "locked & loaded" to kill him during the FBI raid. The prosecution has said the FBI planned the raid for when Trump and his family wouldn't be at Mar-a-Lago.

Cannon also heard arguments on Friday and Monday about Trump's request for the entire case to be dismissed based on the role of a special counsel in the case. Trump's legal team argued that Smith's appointment and funding are both unlawful – two claims the prosecution denies. Cannon hasn't yet issued a ruling on those arguments.

In May, Cannon indefinitely postponed holding a trial in the case. If Trump wins the November election and assumes the presidency, he could order the Justice Department to drop the case completely.

Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith as special counsel to oversee the documents investigation as well as a separate probe into Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Special counsels have more independence from Justice Department leadership than other federal prosecutors. Garland said the November, 2022 appointment underscored the department's "commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters."

Smith ultimately brought prosecutions against Trump as a result of both investigations.

Contributing: Reuters

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Judge Aileen Cannon leans toward prosecutors on documents