Judge sets rules for handling national secrets in Mar-a-Lago case

Defense attorneys for Donald Trump will have to follow strict rules
for handling the classified documents the former president is accused of
hiding at his Florida resort, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The order
from U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Trump appointee, was filed
following a two-hour hearing held Tuesday to discuss the Classified Information Procedures Act,
or CIPA. The law, which regulates the use of classified information in
criminal cases, was passed in 1980 based on fears that defense lawyers
could use the disclosure of national secrets as a bargaining tool in
plea negotiations.

The hearing, which was not open to the public,
was attended by Walt Nauta, a Trump aide accused of helping his boss
hide records at Mar-a-Lago, but not the former president himself,
according to the minutes.

Wednesday’s order explains in detail the
procedures Trump’s defense team will have to follow while handling the
sensitive information. Cannon warned in her order that leaks “could
cause serious damage, and in some cases exceptionally grave damage,” to
the security of the United States, or aid its foreign adversaries.

Classified
information must be stored at all times in a “sensitive compartmented
information facility” that has been approved by the information security
officer assigned to the case. The officer is responsible for managing
the day-to-day operations of the facility and ensuring the defense team
has access to classified materials on a “need-to-know” basis.

The
defense’s notes, summaries and other memoranda that contain classified
information must remain at all times in the facility, unless the officer
determines otherwise, the order states. Sensitive audio recordings can
only be reviewed on a non-networked computer or device.

“The
defense must use headphones to review such recordings, and the
headphones must be wired and not have any wireless capability,” the
judge added in the order.

Defense attorneys cannot discuss
national secrets outside the facility, the order states. Information can
be shared with the former president unless the government seeks a court
order prohibiting its disclosure.

Trump is charged with
unlawfully taking boxes of classified records after leaving office in
2021 and storing them in unsecured areas at Mar-a-Lago. Carlos De
Oliveira, a property manager at the resort, and Nauta are accused of
helping their boss hide the records as the former president stonewalled
federal authorities hunting for them.

The classified information
detailed the defense and weapons capabilities of the United States and
foreign countries, the nation’s nuclear programs, military
vulnerabilities and possible responses to foreign attacks, according to
the indictment.

The order does not address a dispute
over Trump’s access to classified information “at or near” Mar-a-Lago.
His attorneys argued in a motion filed last month that an area in the
Palm Beach resort was previously approved as a secure facility for
discussing and storing classified information.

Federal prosecutors
countered that Trump was seeking “special treatment” but noted defense
attorneys could petition the security officer to designate Mar-a-Lago as
a secure facility under the proposed procedures.

Attorneys for Nauta also requested
their client be permitted access to confidential records to assist with
his defense. Cannon ruled Wednesday that the defendant could access
information with government permission or by court order.