Trump seeks to exclude evidence seized from Florida home in documents case

An aerial view of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home after Trump said that FBI agents raided it, in Palm Beach, Fla., Aug. 15, 2022. Trump's lawyers are set to ask a judge on Tuesday to bar prosecutors from using evidence critical to the criminal case.

An aerial view of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home after Trump said that FBI agents raided it, in Palm Beach, Fla., Aug. 15, 2022. Trump's lawyers are set to ask a judge on Tuesday to bar prosecutors from using evidence critical to the criminal case. (Marco Bello, Reuters)


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FORT PIERCE, Florida — Donald Trump's lawyers are set to ask a U.S. judge on Tuesday to bar prosecutors from using evidence critical to the criminal case accusing the former president of illegally holding onto classified information after leaving office.

Lawyers for Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, are expected to urge Florida-based U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon to suppress evidence seized during an FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago home and social club in August 2022 and gathered from his one-time lawyer.

The evidence is foundational to the case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith, and Trump faces legal hurdles in excluding it. But Cannon, who was nominated to the bench by Trump, ruled in his favor in a prior challenge of the FBI search.

Trump's lawyers have argued that the Mar-a-Lago search warrant violated the U.S. Constitution because it gave agents overly broad authority to comb the property to seize potential evidence. They also argue that prosecutors did not inform the judge who approved the warrant of information helpful to Trump's defense.

The search turned up about 100 classified documents stashed on the property, leading to charges that Trump retained sensitive national security information when he left the White House in 2021.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 40 criminal counts and his lawyers have mounted a flurry of legal challenges that have indefinitely delayed a trial in the case. It is unlikely to reach a jury before Trump faces Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 election.

Prosecutors have defended the court-approved search as appropriate and necessary. The search came after prosecutors learned that Trump had deliberately thwarted a legal demand to return any classified documents that remained at Mar-a-Lago, according to the indictment.

Trump's lawyers are also expected to ask Cannon to quash evidence collected from Trump's former attorney Evan Corcoran, who was compelled to testify in the investigation.

That portion of the hearing will take place out of public view because it involves confidential information about grand jury proceedings and Trump's conversations with his legal team.

Notes from Corcoran, who represented Trump earlier in the documents probe, form an important part of the case that Trump obstructed government efforts to retrieve the records after being told to return them. Trump asked Corcoran at one point in the investigation why he could not falsely tell the government that no classified documents remained at Mar-a-Lago, according to prosecutors.

Trump has argued in court filings that prosecutors violated his attorney-client privilege, which generally protects conversations between lawyers and the people they represent from disclosure, when they brought Corcoran before a grand jury and obtained notes on his conversations with Trump.

A different federal judge previously ruled that Corcoran must testify because prosecutors had shown that his legal advice was used to further criminal activity. Corcoran has not been accused of wrongdoing.

The hearing will conclude three days of arguments before Cannon on Trump's challenges to the case. Trump's lawyers pressed an argument on Friday and Monday that Smith was unlawfully appointed and that his investigation has been improperly funded.

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Andrew Goudsward

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