“Unprecedented”: Experts stunned at Trump’s secret docs filing — but worry Cannon “may fall for it”

Former President Donald Trump’s legal team requested to discuss classified information with the former president at his homes as part of his criminal case for convenience, CNN reports, citing a new court filing from the Department of Justice.

Federal prosecutors strongly oppose the proposal and instead want Trump and his attorney to only discuss and handle sensitive materials in his case inside a specially protected space called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, abbreviated to SCIF.

But Trump’s legal team “expressed concerns regarding the inconvenience posed by this limitation and requested that Defendant Trump be permitted to discuss classified information with his counsel in his office at Mar-a-Lago, and possibly Bedminster,” the Justice Department wrote in the filings. “The government is not aware of any case in which a defendant has been permitted to discuss classified information in a private residence, and such exceptional treatment would not be consistent with the law.”

The department noted that a “significant portion” of the classified information the defense will receive ahead of the trial is so highly sensitive that it must only be handled in a SCIF. Many of the documents Trump is accused of illegally retaining are also of that level of sensitivity.

“Defendant Trump’s personal residences and offices are not lawful locations for the discussion of classified information, any more than they would be for any private citizen. Since the conclusion of Defendant Trump’s presidency, neither the Mar-a-Lago Club nor the Bedminster Club has been an authorized location for the storage, possession, review, display, or discussion of classified information,” the court filing reads.

“It is particularly striking that he seeks permission to do so in the very location at which he is charged with willfully retaining the documents charged in this case,” prosecutors added.

The dispute between the special counsel’s office and Trump’s defense was revealed in a court filing made public Thursday with the DOJ explaining why both parties have yet to reach an agreement on how to protect classified evidence in the case before trial.

Prosecutors have asked the judge presiding over the case, Aileen Cannon, to issue an order that the classified materials in the case only be viewed, stored and talked about in controlled environments under the supervision of an appointed classified information officer.

Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance argued that the Trump team’s request shouldn’t even be a consideration for Cannon, who Vance wrote in a post to her Substack is likely aware that the ask is another stalling tactic.

She pointed to federal prosecutors’ renewed Thursday motion for the protective order and acknowledged that Cannon has been urging Trump’s defense and the Justice Department to reach a compromise. But, she argued, Trump’s complaint about the inconvenience of having to view the materials in a SCIF demonstrates his ignorance.

“He wants to be able to see it in the comfort of his own home. Trump still doesn’t get he’s not going to receive special treatment, unless Judge Aileen Cannon gives it to him,” Vance writes. “If she does on this point, look for Jack Smith to appeal immediately and win. Trump’s request flies in the face of clearly established law on handling classified documents—not exactly a shocker given the nature of this prosecution.”

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She then argued that the Trump team’s request, like many others the former president has made in the case, is really an effort to later delay the trial, predicting that they would level an argument that the defense has not had enough time to prepare for the trial since Trump would be busy with his presidential campaign and the government would not accommodate them.

“Trump is making this argument, not because he thinks it’s a good one—it’s clearly a loser. He’s making it to set up an argument down the road that the trial has to be delayed even further,” Vance explained. “Judge Aileen Cannon, if past is prologue, may fall for it. But the argument is tone deaf, a real failure to read the room, or at least the Special Counsel’s office.”

“Donald Trump, self-described victim, has met Jack Smith, career prosecutor. And Smith isn’t buying it,” she concluded.

Trump’s team has not fully explained their stance in court at this time, nor has Cannon weighed in.

“I’ve never heard of a situation where classified docs could be reviewed by defense counsel and defendant outside of a SCIF. And some of this information is particularly sensitive,” national security lawyer and former Justice Department official Brandon Van Grack tweeted Thursday, calling the Trump defense team’s request “unprecedented.”

“Can’t overstate the brazenness of former President’s request to discuss classified info w/ his attys at Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster, which are the scenes of the crime,” he added. “It’s like a request to re-victimize the U.S. govt/intelligence community.”

“This is Chutzpah with a capitol C,” NYU Law professor Andrew Weissmann said on Twitter in response to the filing.


“This is our first real chance to see where Judge Cannon is on everything. It should be rapidly dismissed without significant argument/litigation,” veteran and former FBI agent Peter Strzok added, echoing Vance’s sentiments. “But under CIPA, an adverse ruling on this is appealable by the government.”

The court filing came the same day that a South Florida grand jury returned an expanded set of criminal charges against Trump and two of his employees in the case. Trump is charged with illegally retaining 32 national security documents, and he, along with his employees — aide Walt Nauta and ex-Mar-a-Lago staffer Carlos De Oliveira — are accused of attempting to obstruct federal investigators’ efforts to retrieve the records. 

The former president maintains he has committed no wrongdoing in the case. He and Nauta have pleaded not guilty and are beginning to review evidence ahead of trial slated for next May. De Oliveira is scheduled to make his first court appearance next week after his Thursday indictment.

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