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After Supreme Court ruling, judge considers Trump's immunity claim in classified docs case

Donald Trump is seeking to build on his Supreme Court victory, which provided immunity from criminal prosecution for his official acts as president, by asking judges in his federal classified documents case and in his New York hush money conviction to throw out all of those charges.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon postponed deadlines Saturday to debate evidence in the classified documents case and instead asked for written arguments about Trump’s immunity in the next two weeks.

Trump’s lawyers asked Cannon on Friday to halt all action in the classified documents case until she rules whether the charges are valid.

New York Judge Juan Merchan postponed sentencing Trump for his hush-money conviction of 34 counts of falsifying business records, which had been scheduled for Thursday, until September.

When the Supreme Court formally returns the election-interference case to U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, she must weigh which charges are still valid to prosecute.

Neither Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith nor Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has responded to the Supreme Court’s decision yet.

Trump’s lawyers, Todd Blanche and Christopher Kise, have argued the high court’s ruling means each of the judges will have to determine which conduct is official or unofficial – and not use any official conduct as evidence for charges against unofficial conduct.

Here is where the cases stand:

Former President Donald Trump campaigns for reelection in Grand Rapids, Mich., on April 2, 2024.

Supreme Court orders 'close analysis' of whether Trump conduct was unofficial

The reason for uncertainty about criminal charges against Trump is because no former president has ever been charged before and the Supreme Court hadn’t ruled on whether they could be.

Until July 1. That’s when Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for a 6-3 majority that former presidents can’t be tried for their official acts, but could potentially be charged for unofficial acts.

The ruling said presidents discussing policy with executive agencies can’t even be questioned about their motives. This ruled out charges involving Trump urging his acting attorney general to pursue allegations of election fraud with officials in swing states.

But the ruling left open the possibility of charges dealing with Trump’s recruitment of fake presidential electors to support him in states President Joe Biden won. Roberts wrote that determining whether Trump's pressure on then-Vice President Mike Pence "requires a close analysis of the indictment’s extensive and interrelated allegations."

“The President is not above the law,” Roberts wrote. “But under our system of separated powers, the President may not be prosecuted for exercising his core constitutional powers, and he is entitled to at least presumptive immunity from prosecution for his official acts."

Trial judges must now determine whether Trump’s conduct for the various charges was official or unofficial.

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump arrives at the courthouse as he is expected to bid for dismissal in a hearing on a classified documents case, in Fort Pierce, Florida, on March 14, 2024.

Judge postpones filings in classified documents case to study Trump's immunity claim

Trump was charged with retaining national defense records and conspiring to hide them from government authorities until FBI agents seized them during a search of Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, in August 2022.

Prosecutors have noted the entire case involves conduct after Trump left the White House in January 2021. Smith's team office said Trump did not have legal authority to designate secret national security documents as personal records and send them to his private home. But Trump’s lawyers have argued his decision to ship the documents to Mar-a-Lago was an official act.

In an order Saturday, Cannon scrapped a Monday deadline for Trump to disclose his experts and Wednesday deadlines for prosecutors and defense lawyers to share more evidence in the case.

Instead, Cannon set a deadline July 18 for Smith to respond to Trump’s request for immunity. Trump will have until July 21 to respond.

Cannon hasn’t set a date for a hearing, but said she could still collect more evidence.

Trump’s lawyers want Cannon to only move forward on two issues in the case: Smith's request for a gag order preventing Trump from making comments that could incite threats against FBI agents working the case, and whether Smith was properly appointed to his job as special counsel.

In the Supreme Court’s ruling on immunity, Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote  questioning Smith's appointment, even though that wasn't at issue in the case and many special counsels have been previously appointed under similar circumstances.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, here at her 2020 nomination hearing by a U.S. Senate committee, only July 15, 2024, dismissed the criminal case against former President Donald Trump over his handling of classified documents, writing that the appointment of special counsel Jack Smith in the case was unlawful.

Judge in federal election interference must also determine unofficial conduct

The Supreme Court hasn’t formally returned Trump’s election-interference case to Chutkan, under what is called a “mandate,” which might not happen until Aug. 2.

“The judgment or mandate of this Court will not issue for at least thirty-two days,” Supreme Court clerk Scott Harris wrote July 1 to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Chutkan will have to review which charges – if any – can go to trial once she gets the case back.

New York Judge Juan Merchan looks on as Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump attends his criminal trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, at Manhattan state court in New York City, on May 30, 2024 in this courtroom sketch.

New York sentencing postponed because of potential immunity

Merchan previously postponed sentencing Trump in the hush-money case, which had been scheduled Thursday, until Sept. 18.

But that’s only if necessary. Merchan plans to decide Sept. 6 whether Trump is immune from the charges, even though his case involves state charges and the Supreme Court was reviewing federal charges.

Trump was convicted May 30 of falsifying records to hide his reimbursement to private lawyer Michael Cohen, who paid $130,000 to silence porn actress Stormy Daniels about alleged sex with Trump before the 2016 election.

The financial arrangements between Cohen and Daniels happened before Trump was elected president. But his series of 11 payments to Cohen – through his private company – happened the first year of his presidency.

Merchan previously ruled that Trump filed an immunity argument in the case too late to be considered.

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