In new filing, Trump lawyers foreshadow potential lines of defense in classified documents case

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawyers for former President Donald Trump foreshadowed elements of their defense in the criminal case charging him with illegally retaining classified documents, saying in a motion filed Tuesday that they will dispute prosecutors’ allegations that the estate where the records were stored was not secure.

The defense team also said in a wide-ranging court filing that they are seeking communication between the Justice Department prosecution team and associates of President Joe Biden in hopes of advancing their claims that the classified documents case is “politically motivated” and designed to harm Trump’s 2024 campaign.

The brief, which asks a judge to compel special counsel Jack Smith’s team to turn over a trove of information, offers the most expansive view yet of potential lines of defense in one of the four criminal cases Trump faces as he seeks to capture the Republican nomination and reclaim the White House.

It offers a blend of legal analysis and political bombast that has come to be expected in Trump team motions. For instance, it references Trump’s record victory this week in the Iowa caucuses and decries the charges as “partisan election interference” — familiar statements from the ex-president’s lawyers that seem intended to appeal as much to voters on the campaign trail as to the judge presiding over the case.

“The Special Counsel’s Office has disregarded basic discovery obligations and DOJ policies in an effort to support the Biden Administration’s egregious efforts to weaponize the criminal justice system in pursuit of an objective that President Biden cannot achieve on the campaign trail: slowing down President Trump’s leading campaign in the 2024 presidential election,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.

Despite Trump’s repeated claims, there is no evidence of any coordination between the Justice Department and the White House, which has said it had no advance knowledge of the FBI’s August 2022 search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate that recovered dozens of classified documents he had taken with him when he left the White House. Attorney General Merrick Garland months later appointed Smith as special counsel as a way to try to insulate the Justice Department from claims of political bias.

A spokesman for Smith declined to comment Tuesday night. Prosecutors will have a chance to respond to the filing, and are likely to tell U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon that much of the material defense lawyers are seeking is not relevant to the case.

A June 2023 indictment charging Trump with dozens of felony counts alleges that investigators found boxes of sensitive documents recklessly stored at Mar-a-Lago in spaces including a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, his bedroom and a storage room. Prosecutors have said the documents he stowed, refused to return and in some cases showed to visitors risked jeopardizing not only relations with foreign nations but also the safety of troops and confidential sources.

But defense lawyers said in their motion that they intend to dispute allegations that “Mar-a-Lago was not secure and that there was a risk that materials stored at those premises could be compromised.”

They argued that prosecutors should be forced to disclose all information related to what they have previously described as “temporary secure locations” at Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties. They contended that such evidence would refute prosecutors’ allegations because the Secret Service took steps to secure the residences and made arrangements for him to review and discuss classified information.

Trump’s lawyers also referenced what they said was an Energy Department action in June, after the charges were filed, to “retroactively terminate” a security clearance for the former president.

They demanded more information about that, saying evidence of a post-presidential possession of a security clearance was relevant for potential arguments of “good-faith and non-criminal states of mind relating to possession of classified materials.”

The case is currently scheduled for trial on May 20, but that date may be pushed back.

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