Trump attends hearing in classified docs case held in special secure facility

The judge is hearing arguments on classified information in the case.

February 12, 2024, 7:28 PM

Former President Trump, as part of the special counsel's classified documents case against him, spend about four hours Monday at a hearing held in a secure facility due to the sensitive nature of the materials at issue in the case.

Trump departed at around 2:20 p.m. ET from the hearing in Florida, which is being held under seal in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility or SCIF -- a specially-equipped secure room for viewing highly classified materials.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who is overseeing the classified documents case, is hearing arguments Monday and Tuesday on the "defense theories of the case" and how "any classified information might be relevant or helpful to the defense," according to a court filing detailing the schedule.

Following the appearance of Trump and his attorneys Monday, special counsel Jack Smith's team presented arguments to Judge Canon outside the presence of Trump's attorneys.

Trump's lawyers and lawyers for his co-defendants in the case, aide Walt Nauta and Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira, will be back in court Tuesday for a second day of hearings.

Trump is not expected to attend.

Judge Cannon, in an order issued Monday, said Tuesday's hearing will address "the classified information produced in classified discovery in the context of the 'relevant and helpful' standard'" as well as "the Special Counsel's request to withhold all of that information from Defendants Nauta and De Oliveira," and will also discuss "specifics with respect to the current figures of materials produced in classified discovery, including whether any of that information overlaps with unclassified discovery and/or merits clarification."

Former U.S. President Donald Trump waves to supporters as he is driven from the Alto Lee Adams Sr. U.S. Courthouse on Feb. 12, 2024 in Fort Pierce, Fla.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Nauta and De Oliveira are not attending the hearing as they do not have clearance to access classified information.

During pretrial proceedings, Smith's team and Trump's attorneys have clashed over how much discovery information should be redacted -- or completely withheld from public view -- in certain court filings.

Judge Cannon previously ruled that Smith's team must file a cache of documents on the public docket, but in a motion last week Smith urged Cannon to reconsider her ruling, saying that doing so would, among other things, reveal the names of potential witnesses in the case, "exposing them to significant and immediate risks of threats, intimidation, and harassment."

"These risks are far from speculative in this case," Smith argued in his filing. "Witnesses, agents, and judicial officers in this very case have been harassed and intimidated, and the further outing of additional witnesses will pose a similarly intolerable risk of turning their lives upside down."

Smith is asking the judge to suspend her ruling until the matter is resolved, suggesting that he might try to appeal the ruling to a higher court if Cannon doesn't reverse course.

The case is currently scheduled to go to trial on May 20, but ongoing disputes between the parties could delay that date.

Trump has been attempting to delay the trial for several months. In a court filing last year, Trump's attorneys argued that the extraordinary nature of the case means there should be no reason to expedite the trial.

"Thus, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(7)(A), based on the extraordinary nature of this action, there is most assuredly no reason for any expedited trial, and the ends of justice are best served by a continuance," Trump's lawyers wrote.

Trump was indicted last June for allegedly refusing to return hundreds of classified documents and thwarting the government's efforts to get them back. The former president has pleaded not guilty and denied all wrongdoing.

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