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Judge skeptical of Trump claims that Mar-a-Lago raid was unconstitutional

Trump's attorney argued the searches of Melania and Barron Trump's rooms violated the former president's Fourth Amendment rights.

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (CN) — Donald Trump’s lawyers on Tuesday pleaded with the federal judge overseeing the former president’s classified documents case to suppress the evidence seized in an “unnecessary” raid on Mar-a-Lago. 

Trump’s attorney Emil Bove told U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon that the 2022 raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence — which resulted in the recovery of at least 300 classified government documents — was pursuant to a warrant that was “overly broad” and violated the former president’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Bove told the court that the warrant lacked sufficient guidance for FBI agents as to what can’t be searched. 

“This was an enormous piece of property, we’re not talking about the search of a single-family home or of an apartment,” Bove said Monday. “The government has to establish probable cause to search the areas that they’ve established in [the warrant].”

Despite the agents only finding the missing presidential records in Trump’s office and a storage room, Bove argued that the warrant resulted in agents searching and photographing the rooms of Trump’s wife Melania and their teenage son Barron.

But Cannon, a Trump-appointed judge who has given the defense some leeway in other hearings this week, seemed skeptical from the jump.

“You’d agree that paperwork is the kind of thing that can be discovered anywhere?” she prodded.

Bove reiterated that it was unnecessary for agents to search Melania’s bedroom and the room where Barron “kept his Peloton bike.” He suggested that the burden of proof is on the government to establish that the warrant was executed in good faith.

“There are disputes about that,” he said, writing in the defense’s motion that “the FBI had taken the position — in writing, apparently — that it was not necessary to execute a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago.”

The defense pushed for a Franks hearing to determine the state of mind of the FBI agents who descended on Mar-a-Lago two summers ago.

Such a hearing is “not remotely necessary,” argued prosecutor David Harbach.

Harbach read from the landmark 1978 Supreme Court ruling after which the Frank hearing was named, which states that a hearing can be held at the defendant’s request when “the defendant makes a substantial preliminary showing that a false statement knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, was included by the affiant in the warrant affidavit, and if the allegedly false statement is necessary to the finding of probable cause.”

“This is their burden,” Harbach said of Trump and his defense team.

Harbach held that agents “didn’t go everywhere” on the Mar-a-Lago property — only the places that the warrant lawfully outlined. He said that those places included the bedrooms of Melania and Barron because Trump had direct access to those rooms.

“There was some evidence that these boxes moved,” Harbach said, adding “it would have been irresponsible for them not to search there.”

Bove contested this, imploring the judge not to take the prosecutors at their word.

“‘Agents didn’t go everywhere,’ he said, imitating Harbach. “Says who?”

Cannon remained hesitant to be swayed, however. She told Bove that it is merely the court’s job to determine if the warrant is particular enough to be constitutional.

“It seems like it is,” she said.

While Cannon didn’t immediately issue a ruling on Tuesday, her purported skepticism was a win for prosecutors, who have repeatedly locked horns with the judge.

The arguments were the last in a marathon of hearings on this case over the past several days. Earlier on Tuesday, Cannon held a sealed hearing to field concerns from Trump’s attorneys that the indictment against him was brought using privileged information.

Prosecutors claim that notes from Trump’s former lawyer Evan Corcoran show Trump’s criminal efforts to hide classified documents from federal agents at Mar-a-Lago.

“I don't want anybody looking, I don't want anybody looking through my boxes, I really don't, I don't want you looking through my boxes," Trump said, according to a snippet of Corcoran’s notes included in the indictment. "Look I just don't want anybody going through these things.”

On Monday, Trump’s lawyers argued that the case should be dismissed because special counsel Jack Smith, who brought the indictment against Trump in 2023, is being unlawfully funded. Prosecutors also argued in favor of restricting Trump’s speech to prevent him from attacking investigators in the case, but Cannon seemed unwilling to grant their request.

Cannon has yet to officially rule on these motions.

Trump is accused of bucking federal efforts to recollect classified documents from his possession after he lost the 2020 presidential election. He’s charged with 32 counts of wilful retention of national defense information under the Espionage Act, seven obstruction counts and one count for making false statements.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all counts. He did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

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Categories / Criminal, National, Politics

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