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Trump wants to talk about classified documents at Mar-a-Lago

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Council Bluffs, Iowa, July 7, 2023.

Scott Morgan | Reuters

Federal prosecutors in a new court filing blasted a request by Donald Trump to be allowed to discuss classified information for his criminal case in Florida at home with his defense attorneys, outside of a specially secured room.

Prosecutors also are opposing a request by one of the former president’s co-defendants in the case, valet Walt Nauta, for access to classified information, as opposed to only his attorneys, noting that Nauta is only charged with an effort to conceal boxes containing the information.

The filing Thursday came on the same day that prosecutors filed several new criminal charges in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against Trump and Nauta, accusing them of an effort to delete video surveillance footage at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. The footage shows boxes of classified records being moved around the club at the same time federal officials were seeking to recover them.

A third defendant was also added to the case, Mar-a-Lago maintenance chief Carlos de Oliveira, who allegedly played a role in the deletion effort

Prosecutors in their filing called Trump’s request to be allowed to discuss classified information with his lawyers at Mar-a-Lago “extraordinary,” and “particularly striking” given the fact that that is the same home where he is charged with retaining classified documents in scores of boxes after leaving office.

“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,” prosecutors for Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith wrote.

“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,” prosecutors wrote.

The filing noted that since the end of Trump’s presidency in January 2021, neither Mar-a-Lago nor his summer residence at his Bedminster, New Jersey, club have been authorized locations to store, possess or discuss classified information.

One of the new charges Thursday against Trump relates to him showing a highly classified document about a U.S. military plan of attack on Iran to people without security clearances at Bedminster in July 2021.

Prosecutors are proposing that Judge Aileen Cannon issue a protective order that would require Trump and his lawyers only to discuss classified information with each other with a so-called SCIF, or sensitive compartmented information facility, which is designed to prevent people not authorized to hear the information from doing so.

In their argument against Nauta being allowed to discuss such information at all with lawyers, prosecutors wrote that “the contents of the classified documents contained in the boxes, and the national defense information that they contain, are not material to proving or defending against those charges” pending against him.

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