U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon issued a 16-page protective order granting prosecutors’ request for a set of rules on how classified information and documents should be treated in the case — rules that comply to the general practice of the federal courts.
Government lawyers had objected to Trump’s request to be allowed to discuss classified information at Mar-a-Lago. And while Cannon’s ruling doesn’t explicitly reject it, it sided with the government and laid out procedures that likely won’t allow for the creation of a Sensitive Compartmented Information Center, or SCIF, in the opulent Palm Beach area.
What is a SCIF? A look at the fortified rooms that guard America’s secrets.
Trump was indicted by the Justice Department on dozens of counts of mishandling highly sensitive documents at his home after the end of his presidency — and conspiring with two employees to thwart government efforts to recover the documents. He pleaded not guilty.
The former president has also denied any wrongdoing in three other indictments: federal charges in Washington D.C. and state charges in Georgia for attempting to obstruct the 2020 election, and state charges in New York for falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Federal courts have complicated procedures for handling cases involving classified information, including appointing a classified information security officer, who is responsible for ensuring that attorneys involved in the case have access to security information national and treat them with care.
This security officer, Cannon ordered Wednesday, “shall establish procedures to ensure that a SCIF is accessible to the defense during business hours, and at other times upon reasonable request approved by the CISO in consultation with the Court and the United States Marshals Service.
SCIFs made available for such defense discussions are often located in or near federal courthouses, but Cannon’s order does not specifically address where SCIFs for the Trump trial will be located.
Its ruling says Trump’s lawyers “possess at least interim security clearances” allowing them access to some of the classified evidence in the case. “Once attorneys receive final clearances, they will promptly receive additional information, at which point they will also be able to access” additional types of classified information, the judge wrote.
Cannon imposed different conditions on what classified information could be shared with Trump and his two co-defendants – Waltine “Walt” Nauta, the former president’s valet and longtime personal assistant, and Carlos De Oliveira, the property manager of Mar-a-Lago.
His order states that Trump’s lawyers can share classified information with the former president unless prosecutors tell his legal team “when they provide the information, they will ask the court for an order prohibiting the classified information from being released to the accused”. This instruction gives prosecutors the opportunity to request that certain evidence remain inaccessible to Trump.
For Nauta, the limitation on classified evidence is stricter, at least initially, saying prosecutors are only willing to disclose to him an unredacted version of a partially redacted photo in the indictment because it shows a classified document.
Nauta is accused of moving boxes at Trump’s request in an attempt to hide from government agents how many classified documents the former president still possessed. Nauta pleaded not guilty.
Any future sharing of classified information with Nauta “will be governed by a subsequent order,” Cannon wrote.
For De Oliveira, the judge ordered that any future disclosure of classified information be governed by specific court orders. Prosecutors say De Oliveira helped Trump try to cover up the mishandling of national security documents. De Oliveira has pleaded not guilty.