Judge denies efforts by Trump co-defendants to see classified material they allegedly helped conceal at Mar-a-Lago

The judge presiding over the Mar-a-Lago documents case on Tuesday denied efforts by Donald Trump’s co-defendants to view the classified records they allegedly moved around the former president’s Florida residence for him.

The men, political aide Walt Nauta and property staffer Carlos De Oliveira, wanted to view the classified records to prepare their trial defenses against obstruction of justice charges. They are accused of helping Trump conceal documents he unlawfully kept in Florida after he left the presidency.

The decision from Southern District of Florida Judge Aileen Cannon on Tuesday night resolves a protracted battle that stood to hamper movement toward a trial, days before the judge revisits her calendar to see if Trump and the two men can be tried before summer. After several confidential hearings in her courthouse in recent weeks, including one that Trump attended, Cannon ruled in favor of the special counsel’s office, which argued De Oliveira and Nauta didn’t need to see the records that were in the boxes at Mar-a-Lago.

“The Court finds that the Special Counsel has met his burden to withhold from Defendants Nauta and De Oliveira personally all classified discovery produced to date,” Cannon wrote in her ruling Tuesday, noting one exception related to a particular document connected to one of the charges against Nauta.

The judge held several hearings earlier this month – all in secret, with the prosecutors and defense appearing separately before her in all but one proceeding. The hearings are part of legally necessary court oversight related to the use of classified information in the case. On Friday, the court will hold a hearing to address scheduling and more legal matters in the case, which is currently set to go to trial in May.

Cannon found that prosecutors had “made a sufficient showing at this stage” that a review by Nauta and De Oliveira of classified documents would not be useful in building up their defense in the case.

Nauta and De Oliveira have been charged with several counts, including making false statements, conspiracy to obstruct justice and corruptly altering, destroying, mutilating, or concealing documents. They have both pleaded not guilty.

Cannon has yet to rule on efforts by Trump’s attorneys for him to access a smaller collection of classified documents, which the Justice Department wants to protect because of their national security sensitivity.

“Unlike the charges brought against Defendant Trump,” Cannon wrote, “the document-related charges against Defendants Nauta and De Oliveira do not require proof that they willfully retained documents ‘relating to the national defense.’”

In short, Cannon said the two men didn’t need to see the classified records they may have carried.

“Defendant Nauta argues, for example, that the contents of the documents in the boxes he is alleged to have unlawfully moved cannot readily be separated from the subject classification markings—making review of the entirety of the documents helpful to the defense or to countering the Special Counsel’s case. Although intuitive in some sense, the Court still is left without any reasonably concrete example of a classified document, or documents, the substance of which appear helpful to either Defendant Nauta or De Oliveira in defending against the non-[national defense] charges against them,” Cannon wrote.

The judge noted that “Nauta and De Oliveira remain able to review unclassified documents found in ‘Trump’s boxes’” that are part of the charges against them.

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