Prosecutors slam Trump’s request for ‘extraordinary authority’ to talk about classified matters at Mar-a-Lago

Prosecutors want Mr Trump and his defence counsel to only discuss classified matters at a secure facility reserved for their use at the Florida courthouse where he will be tried next year

Andrew Feinberg
Friday 28 July 2023 15:10 BST
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The Department of Justice has slammed Donald Trump’s legal team for asking the judge overseeing the criminal case against him in the Southern District of Florida to allow the ex-president to discuss classified matters at Mar-a-Lago and other private residences.

In documents filed with the court late Thursday, prosecutors said Mr Trump’s attorneys made the request for “extraordinary authority” as part of negotiations over the legally-mandated protective order which Judge Aileen Cannon must issue before they and their client can have any access to the classified material which the government plans to use as evidence when Mr Trump goes on trial next May.

Prosecutors said Mr Trump’s attorneys objected to a standard provision in the proposed protective order requiring them to only discuss classified matters with their client in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (Scif) — a purpose-built facility that would be set aside for their supervised use at the courthouse — citing “inconvenience posed by this limitation”.

They added that Mr Trump’s counsel requested that their client be permitted to discuss classified matters with them in his private offices at his Mar-a-Lago beach club and Bedminster, New Jersey golf resort, which have served as his main residences since he left office in January 2021.

In response, the government said it was “not aware of any case in which a defendant has been permitted to discuss classified information in a private residence” and noted that giving Mr Trump “such exceptional treatment” would “not be consistent” with US law requiring “all sensitive compartmented information” to be “processed, stored, used, or discussed in an accredited sensitive compartmented information facility”.

Even discussing classified matters that are not considered Sensitive Compartmented Information in an unsecure area, they said, would violate regulations which state that “all persons” with authorised access to such information are “responsible for” “[e]nsuring that classified information is not communicated over unsecured voice or data circuits, in public conveyances or places, or in any other manner that permits interception by unauthorized persons”.

“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,” they said.

Prosecutors added that there was “no basis” for Mr Trump to seek “the extraordinary authority to discuss classified information at his residence,” they continued, adding later that it was “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”.

Instead, they asked Judge Cannon to impose a protective order that would “appropriately require” classified information to be handled consistent with legal requirements under supervision of a court-appointed Classified Information Security Officer charged with making determinations “consistent with the law and regulations concerning the storage and discussion of classified information”.

The government’s request for Judge Cannon to impose a protective order to allow Mr Trump and his counsel to access classified evidence against him under controlled circumstances came on the same day prosecutors filed a superseding indictment adding additional charges against Mr Trump, including another count of unlawfully retaining what is alleged to be a document concerning Iran war plans which he showed to unauthorised persons during a meeting which was recorded by several participants.

The ex-president is also now charged with conspiring with co-defendant Walt Nauta and a new co-defendant, Carlos De Oliveira, to arrange for the deletion of Mar-a-Lago CCTV footage after his company received a subpoena compelling the disclosure of such footage to the Washington, DC grand jury that was investigating how hundreds of classified documents ended up at his Palm Beach, Florida beach club after his term as president — and his legal authority to possess such documents — expired at noon on 20 January 2021.

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