Trump Seeks to Review Classified Evidence at His Own Secure Facility

by Pelican Press
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Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday asked the judge overseeing his prosecution on charges of risking national security secrets if he could discuss the classified discovery evidence in the case in the “secure facility” that he once used for classified material when he was in office.

The request to the federal judge, Aileen M. Cannon, was an attempt to get around a stricter provision contained in a protective order proposed by the government that would require Mr. Trump to discuss and review the classified evidence only in one of the highly secure locations run by the federal courts in Florida.

While Mr. Trump’s lawyers refused to offer many details about their preferred location, they told Judge Cannon that it was “a previously approved facility at or near his residence” — an apparent reference to Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club in Florida.

Christopher M. Kise, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, said the request to allow the former president to re-establish “the same secure area” for classified material would cut down on the “immense practical and logistical hurdles and costs” of having Mr. Trump travel to one of the sensitive compartmented information facilities, or SCIFs, run by the courts.

“Limiting any discussions with counsel to the government-offered SCIFs is an inappropriate, unnecessary and unworkable restriction, given the unique circumstances of President Trump’s access to security — namely that he resides and works in a secure location that is protected at all times by members of the United States Secret Service,” Mr. Kise wrote.

The discussions about the protective order over discovery in the classified documents case came as Mr. Trump’s lawyers were fighting a similar, but more contentious, battle over a protective order in the other federal case he faces — the one accusing him of three conspiracies to overturn the 2020 election.

Late last week, prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, who is handling both of the matters, asked the judge in the election interference case to bar Mr. Trump from making public any of the discovery evidence related to that indictment.

As part of their argument, the prosecutors cited Mr. Trump’s longstanding habit of attacking people connected to the criminal cases against him and drew the attention of the judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, to a threatening message he had posted on his social media website, Truth Social.

Seizing the opportunity to bring the case back to their chosen defense theme, Mr. Trump’s lawyers responded that prosecutors were infringing on the former president’s First Amendment rights and seeking to squelch his ability to communicate about the election case with the public as he mounts his third bid for the White House.

Judge Chutkan has scheduled a hearing to discuss the protective order in Washington on Friday.

Prosecutors in the documents case had initially proposed barring Mr. Trump from even reviewing some of the classified discovery evidence — a position that seemed to outrage Mr. Kise. Even though the government has since backed away from that suggestion, Mr. Kise expressed shock about it in his filing to Judge Cannon, writing that it was unusual given that Mr. Trump was “the 45th president of the United States and, as such, had access to and knowledge of each and every one of our nation’s most sensitive secrets.”

The indictment filed against Mr. Trump in the classified materials case accuses him of illegally holding on to 32 documents in violation of the Espionage Act. It also charged him with conspiring with two co-defendants — Walt Nauta, one of his personal aides, and Carlos De Oliveira, the property manager at Mar-a-Lago — to obstruct the government’s repeated efforts to retrieve the sensitive materials.

Mr. Kise also raised objections in his filing about the “voluminous” unclassified discovery evidence the government has provided since June. That includes more than one million pages of records, he wrote, including about 240,000 emails and 315,130 other documents.

The trove of discovery evidence also includes some 76 terabytes of raw surveillance camera data — or what Mr. Kise described as “more than eight years of CCTV footage.”

The footage was instrumental in the government’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump conspired with Mr. Nauta and Mr. De Oliveira to hide boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago and then to cover up their movements.

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