Donald Trump’s Lawyers Have Changed How They Refer to Him

Donald Trump’s legal team twice referred to his time in the White House as his “first term” as president in a recent court filing in his classified documents case.

The former president is facing a total of 40 felony charges over allegations he illegally held on to classified papers after leaving the White House in January 2021 then obstructed efforts to get them returned to the relevant authorities. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all counts and strongly denies any wrongdoing.

On March 12, Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential election following a series of primary victories, setting up a likely rematch against President Joe Biden. This has focused attention on what a second Trump term could look like amid his ongoing legal battles, with the former president facing criminal charges in four separate cases.

Trump’s legal team filed a seven page document to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, where he will stand trial in the classified documents case, on March 24. This was done in support for his controversial bid to get the charges dismissed on the basis of presidential immunity.

In the filing the former president’s team twice refer to “President Trump’s first term,” language which was not used for previous filings.

On the second page they state: “In two court filings in this case, the Office has conceded that these alleged decisions occurred during President Trump’s first term.”

Three pages later they referred to “alleged actions and decisions during the ‘tail end’ and ‘eleventh hour’ of President Trump’s first term.”

Newsweek contacted representatives of Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign by email at 8:50 a.m. ET on Friday. This article will be updated if they decide to comment.

Trump’s legal team is arguing the criminal cases against him should be dismissed on the basis that the president is legally immune from prosecution for any acts carried out whilst in office. In 1981 the Supreme Court ruled the president is immune from civil damages liability for “official acts” committed in office in Nixon v. Fitzgerald, but it has not ruled on whether this applies to criminal charges.

However, the Supreme Court has now agreed to hear a case on “Whether and if so to what extent does a former President enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.”

Former president Donald Trump
Donald Trump speaking to the press in Massapequa, Long Island, New York, on March 28, 2024. Trump’s legal team have started referring to his “first term” in office in court filings.


Speaking to Newsweek Greg Germain, a law professor at Syracuse University in New York, said the Supreme Court is unlikely to rule in Trump’s favor as the cases against him don’t revolve around his “core” activities as president.

He said: “A president should certainly be immune from criminal prosecution for some core official acts, but not for acts done for personal gain or unconnected with the president’s official duties. The president should be immune from wartime decisions, for example.”

A Politico/Ipsos survey of 1,032 U.S. voters found 48 percent of Republicans don’t believe presidents should enjoy immunity for crimes committed in office, against just 24 percent who think they should.

In addition to the classified documents case Trump is facing criminal trials over claims he orchestrated the payment of hush money to a pornographic actress ahead of the 2016 presidential election and broke the law attempting to overturn the 2020 election both nationwide and in the state of Georgia specifically. Trump has pled not guilty to all counts and insists the cases against him are politically motivated.