(The Center Square) – A federal judge ruled Wednesday that former President Donald Trump can only review or discuss classified documents in secure facilities as he faces charges of illegally keeping sensitive classified materials after leaving office.
U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, said all classified documents must be reviewed in a sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF.
Trump had asked the judge to have the government reestablish a secure facility at Mar-a-Lago so he could discuss purported classified documents that he’s accused of illegally keeping there with his attorneys.
Prosecutors had asked that all classified document discussions and reviews take place in a SCIF.
Cannon’s ruling on Wednesday came after a sealed hearing on Tuesday.
She warned Trump and his co-defendants against speaking out about classified documents if such documents are leaked.
“If classified information enters the public domain, the defense and the Defendant are precluded from making private or public statements where the statements would reveal personal knowledge from non-public sources regarding the classified status of the information or would disclose that the defense had personal access to classified information confirming, contradicting, or otherwise relating to the information already in the public domain,” Cannon wrote in the order. “If there is any question whether information is classified, the defense must handle that information as though it is classified.”
The judge’s ruling doesn’t address whether a SCIF could be set up at Mar-a-Lago or any of Trump’s other properties, but said the SCIF areas would be overseen by a chief information security officer from the federal government designated to manage the classified information in the case.
The former president had wanted to be able to discuss the documents at home instead of a secure public facility in southern Florida.
“This request is based on the immense practical and logistical hurdles and costs that make it virtually impossible for President Trump to make regular trips to a public facility to discuss classified discovery material with counsel as necessary to conduct a defense consistent with the rights afforded by the Constitution,” Trump’s attorneys Christopher Kise and Todd Blanche had written in an earlier motion. “Both the required security protocol surrounding President Trump’s travel and the challenges surrounding the media’s and public’s intense focus on this prosecution pose an enormous obstacle to our ability to provide counsel to President Trump regarding classified matters, which are, no doubt, essential to this case.”
In June, Trump pleaded not guilty to 37 counts that allege he kept sensitive military documents, shared them with people who didn’t have security clearance, and tried to get around the government’s efforts to get them back. In August, Trump’s attorneys entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf to additional charges in the documents case. Charges in a superseding indictment allege Trump attempted to delete surveillance video at his Mar-A-Lago home in Florida.