Donald Trump will attend a court hearing Monday where his lawyers will present their defense theories to the judge presiding over the criminal case over his withholding of classified documents and obstruction of justice, according to two people familiar with his plans.
The former president's presence in the courtroom could raise the stakes for U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon as she decides whether prosecutors from Special Prosecutor Jack Smith's office should be allowed to retain or redact certain classified documents which will be returned to discovery.
The hearing, which is being held behind closed doors at the federal district court in Fort Pierce, Florida, began at 9:30 a.m. and is being held ex parte, meaning Trump's prosecutors and lawyers will have separate sessions to present their arguments. arguments to the judge.
Trump would be present during the first part of the day, when his lawyers are expected to present their defense theories, as they ask the judge to reject as many redactions or substitutions to classified documents as proposed by prosecutors, sources said relatives. with the said affair.
Trump's legal team is set to suggest it intends to shape some of Trump's defenses at trial around the argument that the classified documents he was accused of keeping no longer constituted information of national defense, as defined in the Espionage Act, when he was arrested with them. in 2022, said the people.
In order to make this argument at trial, Trump's legal team will generally assert that they need as many classified documents as possible unredacted so they can place the information in a broader context, the sources said.
Exactly what arguments Trump's lawyers and prosecutors will make at the hearing, which is being conducted under the rules of Section 4 of the Classified Information Procedures Act, are unclear because the proceedings are not public.
It was also unclear whether the judge would hear arguments on a separate motion filed by Trump's lawyers also seeking to grant prosecutors' Article 4 request explaining the national security reasons behind each redaction or substitution that they propose to make.
If the judge grants any of Trump's requests to allow fewer redactions than prosecutors requested, or, more importantly, to allow Trump access under Section 4, prosecutors can appeal its decisions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
The hearing marks the first wave of activity in the classified documents case, which has otherwise been relatively quiet for weeks. Many proceedings involved classified information and were therefore made public.
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The case is approaching a critical turning point on March 1, when Cannon has scheduled a hearing to almost certainly set a new trial date. Cannon had originally scheduled the trial for May 20, but expressed concern last year that it could collide with Trump's federal election interference trial in Washington.
Cannon has faced repeated criticism for seemingly pro-Trump decisions, including pushing back deadlines, since she was randomly assigned the criminal case while also overseeing litigation related to the investigation precedent of the grand jury.
Trump has made no secret that his overall legal strategy is to seek delays, because if he won the 2024 election in November and the trial had not yet started or was not completed, he could appoint as prosecutor general a loyalist. who would drop the charges against him.
But finding time for all of Trump's trials, he also has a criminal case in New York and Georgia has been a logistical nightmare because they have all been scheduled around each other and Trump is running his campaign for a other presidency at the same time as its legal strategy. .
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