Judge sets rules for evidence discussion in Trump's classified documents case

September 14, 2023
Ryan Ledendecker

Former President Donald Trump's classified documents indictment, his second of four total indictments this year, now has "guardrails" in place as far as what he and his legal team can discuss, evidence-wise.

According to the Washington Examiner, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon set the rules this week, which the Examiner noted is "standard protocol" for cases involving classified documents.

The judge focused on how the evidence, much of which is classified, can be discussed, noting that any discussions will take place in a SCIF [sensitive compartmented information facility].

The SCIF area will authorized by a court-appointed chief information security officer.

Ongoing battle

The rules were set by the judge this week after Special Counsel Jack Smith and Trump's legal defense team went back and forth in attempting to negotiate where the SCIF reviews would take place.

Judge Cannon warned that "any unauthorized disclosure or mishandling of classified information may constitute violations of federal criminal law."

As far as Trump's view, given the large volume of documents, his lawyers argued that he should have convenient access to a SCIF, even suggesting one be set up at Mar-a-Lago.

"So that President Trump and his legal team may discuss classified information in a substantive manner as regularly as necessary to prepare an adequate defense, we respectfully request that the Court approve re-establishment of a secure facility in which President Trump previously discussed (and reviewed) classified information during his term as President of the United States," his attorneys wrote.

Not surprisingly, Smith and his team of prosecutors didn't like that idea, arguing that Mar-a-Lago is "less suited" to be transformed into a SCIF given that it's a "social club" in addition to the former president's residence.

Prosecutors say no way

"In essence, he is asking to be the only defendant ever in a case involving classified information (at least to the Government’s knowledge) who would be able to discuss classified information in a private residence," Smith's team wrote in their filing.

National security lawyer Brad Moss indicated that it's not totally out of the question that a SCIF could be established at Mar-a-Lago, noting that it will ultimately be up to the chief security officer.

"It is highly unlikely that this government security officer will authorize such a controversial step at what is literally the scene of the alleged crime itself," Moss added.

Only time will tell if Trump's lawyers win this particular battle.

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