Closed hearings on Trump classified documents evidence begin Monday

Closed-door hearings began Monday to consider the extent of access to evidence in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case against former President Donald Trump.

Judge Aileen Cannon was first meeting with Trump’s defense team, starting at 9:30 a.m., at the federal courthouse in Fort Pierce, Florida, and then with the special counsel’s prosecutors in the afternoon.

Trump confirmed in a campaign fundraising email that he was attending the hearing in person after the chairman of the St. Lucie County Republican executive committee said one of Trump’s attorneys told him the former president would be there, an NBC affiliate in West Palm Beach reported. NBC News reached out to the Trump campaign and the St. Lucie County GOP for comment.

A caravan of black SUVs with tinted windows arrived outside of the courthouse Monday morning, accompanied by law enforcement, but NBC News could not confirm who was inside the vehicles.

Special counsel Jack Smith, who is prosecuting Trump in the classified documents case, asked Cannon last week to reconsider an order to unseal documents, arguing that it poses a “significant and immediate” threat to more than two dozen witnesses.

Lawyers for the special counsel are seeking to block requests by Trump’s lawyers for unredacted documents, arguing Cannon erroneously applied a legal standard when she ordered materials unsealed. The judge on Friday delayed her initial order.

The special counsel’s filing cited an exhibit that contains “information about uncharged potentially obstructive conduct by a defendant, and speculation about witness tampering by an uncharged individual.” Prosecutors said the witness did not agree to a recorded interview.

The former president faces multiple criminal charges in the case, including willful retention of national defense information, false statements and representations, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, and corruptly concealing a document. Trump’s legal team is seeking to have the charges thrown out and face a Feb. 22 deadline for pretrial motions.

Trump and two co-defendants, personal aide Walt Nauta and Mar-a-Lago worker Carlos De Oliveira, have pleaded not guilty to charges related to the former president’s alleged mishandling of classified documents at Trump’s estate.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in May, but Cannon could postpone it during a scheduling conference set for March 1.

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