Federal judge sidesteps Trump request to view classified info at Mar-a-Lago in protective order

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A federal judge issued a protective order Wednesday in the Mar-a-Lago case, clearing the sharing of classified evidence as the Justice Department prosecutes former President Trump for mishandling government secrets.

The order from Judge Aileen Cannon does not acknowledge a request from Trump to review those documents by redesignating a space in his home as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF).

It instead leaves it to a chief information security officer, a neutral party designated to manage the classified evidence in the case, to make arrangements for Trump and his legal team to review the evidence.

The order largely used standard language included in protective orders in classified cases, noting in a line echoing the subject of the case itself that “any unauthorized disclosure or mishandling of classified information may constitute violations of federal criminal law.”

It also bars Trump from making public comments about classified evidence in the case, noting that even classified information that “appears in the public domain” is not fair game to discuss unless it has been released as part of an official government statement.

The order comes more than three months after the Justice Department indicted Trump for violation of the Espionage Act on 33 counts as well as obstruction of justice and other charges related to his failure to return the classified documents at numerous junctions.

But the delay in nailing down a proactive order — first requested in mid-July — means the Justice Department can only just begin sharing the most crucial evidence in a case relying heavily on classified materials.

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The effort to set ground rules for handling the information spurred an effort by Trump to reestablish a SCIF in homes where he once reviewed classified information as president.

“Re-establishing the same secure area that existed during President Trump’s term as President of the United States is a secure, efficient, and cost-effective way for these conversations to take place in a fully secure environment,” his attorneys wrote in the August filing.

“President Trump requests that the Court approve the renewed use of the previously approved and appropriately secure location so that he is then able 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.”

Prosecutors dismissed the pitch as “extraordinary” given that it is the very location where Trump is charged with improperly handling some of the nation’s most closely guarded secrets.

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