The Justice Department (DOJ) is fighting an effort from former President Trump’s legal team to reestablish a secure facility in Mar-a-Lago, arguing he would be “the only defendant ever” in a classified document case to review evidence in their home.
“Creating a secure location in Trump’s residence — which is also a social club — so he can discuss classified information would be an unnecessary and unjustified accommodation that deviates from the normal course of cases involving classified discovery,” the DOJ wrote in a brief Monday evening.
The battle comes over the sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF) where Trump would need to meet with his legal team to discuss the evidence in the case, including 32 highly classified documents he is accused of mishandling at Mar-a-Lago.
Trump’s team last week did not list Mar-a-Lago by name but asked for “re-establishing the same secure area that existed during President Trump’s term as president,” arguing Trump’s movements to arrive at such a facility with security detail in tow would be too much of a burden for himself and law enforcement.
“In making this request for the creation of a secure location for his personal use, Trump continues to seek special treatment that no other criminal defendant would receive. 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,” the DOJ wrote, calling Mar-a-Lago especially unsuitable as “a social club.”
The filing also dings Trump’s team for Trump’s failure to provide any “specifics … about what steps (including cost or time) would be required to create a secure space at his proposed location.”
Trump initially requested to review evidence in the documents case at his Florida home, something prosecutors dismissed as “extraordinary” given that it is the very location where he is charged with improperly handling some of the nation’s most closely guarded secrets.
In requesting the redesignation of a SCIF, Trump’s team said it would allow the former president “to discuss the relevant classified information with his counsel without the need to mobilize his security detail and state and local law enforcement every time he has a conversation regarding his defense as it relates to purportedly classified information.”
DOJ on Monday also said Trump’s team had misinterpreted the parameters of the proposed protective order in the case, noting that the former president would communicate with his attorneys in any secure setting, regardless of whether the evidence is also housed there.
Exactly what facility would be available to Trump and his attorneys is a decision best made by the classified information security officer in the case, DOJ argues, the officer responsible for secure storage of classified materials involved in court proceedings.
Much of the filing is also devoted to a bid by Trump co-defendant Walt Nauta to have unfettered access to all the classified discovery in the case.
Unlike Trump, Nauta is not charged with violating the Espionage Act but rather assisting Trump in his efforts to shield the documents from authorities, prompting obstruction of justice charges.
“The classified discovery in this case goes well beyond the charged documents and includes documents so sensitive that Nauta would not have been permitted to view them even when he possessed a security clearance,” DOJ writes.
“Nauta is charged with obstruction and false statements offenses related to the investigation of Trump’s unlawful retention of classified documents, the resolution of which does not turn on the classification of the documents he is alleged to have helped Trump conceal.”
Updated at 7:22 p.m.