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Trump’s Mar-a-Lago co-defendants blocked from accessing classified documents they allegedly hid

The federal judge presiding over Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago case has sided with special counsel Jack Smith to resolve a key issue surrounding his co-defendants’ access to the classified documents that they are accused of hiding.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Mr Trump appointee, has rejected attempts from the former president’s co-defendants – longtime aide Walt Nauta and property employee Carlos De Oliveira – to view the classified records in question as they prepare for trial.

Mr Nauta and Mr De Oliveira sought to review the records to prepare their trial defences against obstruction charges for allegedly helping the former president unlawfully conceal documents after he left the White House.

The judge’s decision on Tuesday – which follows several closed-door hearings to review evidence to prepare for trial, including hearings that Mr Trump himself attended – comes days before a hearing to set a trial schedule for Mr Trump, who is preparing for three other criminal trials in three other jurisdictions, among a further mountain of litigation against him as he seeks the Republican nomination for president.

On Friday, the court will discuss scheduling and other issues in the case, which has been tentatively scheduled to begin in May.

In her order, Judge Cannon stated that the prosecutors with the special counsel “made a sufficient showing” in arguments that a review of classified documents from Mr Nauta and Mr De Oliveira would not be “relevant and helpful” to their defense, citing filings from Mr Smith’s office.

The men are charged with making false statements, conspiracy to obstruct justice and corruptly altering, destroying, mutilating, or concealing documents, among other charges. They have pleaded not guilty.

Donald Trump speaks to reporters outside Mar-a-Lago’s gates on 16 February.

(AP)

Judge Cannon argued that there’s no reason they need to see the documents they are accused of moving.

She has not yet ruled on a similar request from the former president’s attorneys to review other classified material, which Mr Smith’s office has argued should be protected for national security reasons.

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

Mr Trump is similarly charged with a number of crimes, including willful retention of national defence information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, corruptly concealing a document, and concealing a document in a federal investigation, among others. He has also pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In a series of filings earlier this month, his attorneys argued that the charges should be dismissed on a number of grounds, including “presidential immunity” – a defence he has used and which judges have rejected in a separate federal case surrounding his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.


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