Trump lawyers in classified docs case ask judge to suppress evidence seized during Mar-a-Lago search

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) — Lawyers for Donald Trump on Tuesday asked the judge presiding over his classified documents case to prevent prosecutors from using as evidence boxes of records seized during an FBI search of his Florida estate.

The arguments marked the conclusion of a three-day hearing in which prosecutors and defense lawyers have sparred over topics ranging from the legality of the appointment of special counsel Jack Smith, whose team brought the case, to whether the Republican former president should be barred from making comments that could pose a risk to the safety of FBI agents involved in the investigation.

Trump faces dozens of felony counts accusing him of illegally hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach and obstructing government efforts to get them back. He has pleaded not guilty.

At issue Tuesday was a defense request to suppress the boxes of records that were taken from Mar-a-Lago during the Aug. 8, 2022, FBI search. Defense lawyers contend that the application that the Justice Department submitted to a judge to obtain a warrant to search the property omitted key facts and provided misleading information, in part because it did not include details of internal Justice Department debate about whether the search of the property was an appropriate step.

One of Trump's lawyers, Emil Bove, also told the judge that the warrant permitted an overly expansive search of the sprawling estate, allowing for Trump's personal papers to be seized in addition to documents with classified markings. He asked for what's known in the law as a Franks hearing to further argue that the warrant application was defective and that the resulting evidence should be suppressed,

“The overbreadth of that search violated President Trump's rights,” Bove said.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee whose handling of the case has generated intense scrutiny, did not immediately rule but expressed repeated skepticism of his lawyers' arguments and signaled that she was not inclined side with them.

Prosecutor David Harbach said that there was nothing misleading about the warrant application and that none of the defense objections had any bearing on whether or not the investigators who applied for the warrant had identified probable cause that a crime had occurred, the legal standard.

He suggested that it was reasonable for agents to have conducted a broad search of the property given the unconventional locations, including a restroom, where records were kept.

“There's nothing about it that remotely even touches on the whether there was probable cause in this case,” Harbach said.

On Monday, Cannon appeared deeply skeptical of a prosecution request to make as a condition of Trump's freedom pending trial a requirement that he avoid comments that might pose a risk to law enforcement officials involved in the case. The judge had a tense exchange with Harbach during those arguments, telling him at one point that she didn't appreciate his tone. He later apologized.

Tuesday's hearing ended on another fractious note when Harbach attempted to complain to the judge about a defense strategy that he said was resulting in needless delays, saying Trump's attorneys had made an “attempt to hijack the hearing” with baseless claims.

That's a sensitive subject given that Cannon's willingness to entertain assorted Trump team motions and her plodding pace in issuing rulings has contributed to a delay that has made a trial — which had been scheduled to begin last month before being indefinitely postponed — before the November presidential election a virtual impossibility.

“There's no hijacking going on,” she replied tersely.

Eric Tucker, The Associated Press