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Classified documents case: Lawyers for Trump will be in a Florida courtroom

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Lawyers for former President Donald Trump and two co-defendants are in court in Florida today, asking a federal judge to dismiss the charges against their clients. Trump is charged with taking classified and top-secret material with him to Mar-a-Lago when he left the White House and then taking part in a conspiracy to hide documents from federal investigators - charges he's pleaded not guilty to. NPR's Greg Allen has been following all this and joins us now from Fort Pierce, Fla. Good morning.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: What's happening at today's hearing?

ALLEN: There are nearly a dozen motions to dismiss the case, filed by Trump and his co-defendants, that are still pending. The two being heard today were filed by Trump aide Walt Nauta. In one, he says he's the victim of a selective and vindictive prosecution. The other motion says the prosecutors' case is a personal and political attack against Trump and that the indictment doesn't have a plain summary of the alleged crimes with which Trump and his co-defendants are charged. The prosecutors, of course, disagree, and they lay out the specific actions Trump and his co-defendants took to hide boxes containing classified documents and then to attempt to delete footage from surveillance cameras at Mar-a-Lago.

FADEL: Greg, the trial was originally scheduled to start this week, but the judge decided to delay it indefinitely earlier this month. Can you just remind us why this trial is taking so long to get started?

ALLEN: Well, you know, Trump was first charged nearly a year ago now with taking the classified material, and then refusing to return it and hiding it from investigators. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who's been hearing the case, has taken many months to make even routine procedural decisions, which has really slowed down the case. Lawyers for Trump and his two co-defendants, aide Walt Nauta and Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira, have filed a slew of motions, including the two being heard today. Many of the motions contain references to sensitive material about witnesses and the investigation that prosecutors don't want to make public before the trial. Judge Cannon, who's a Trump appointee, has been generally receptive to defense arguments and critical of special counsel Jack Smith in her rulings on this issue, and that's slowed things down, as well.

FADEL: And we got some new information this week about the government's search for classified documents, right?

ALLEN: Right, yeah. An order that, up to now, was sealed lays out concerns by prosecutors that Trump was still hiding classified documents even after the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago in 2022. Additional searches were conducted over the next several months, and they turned up more classified material, including some documents that were in Trump's bedroom at Mar-a-Lago.

FADEL: Obviously, the case involves a lot of classified documents - I think we said classified about 10 times since we started talking - so tricky to handle. The jury doesn't have clearance to see them. How has the judge decided to deal with that?

ALLEN: Right, well, it's another issue that slowed proceedings down considerably. Prosecutors say the documents were marked classified and that Trump withheld them illegally, and they say that's really the only thing that they believe jurors need to know about them. Trump and his lawyers, they'll want to raise some of these documents as evidence in the trial. They question how confidential it was. And they also say some of the material might be stuff that he was entitled to possess as a former president.

FADEL: Now, one complicating factor for the schedule of this trial has been Trump's hush money trial in New York. That's wrapping up now. Will that speed things up in Florida?

ALLEN: It may, but this case still looks unlikely to begin until the fall at the earliest. On her original schedule, Judge Cannon had set a deadline for last November for deciding what classified material Trump could cite in his defense. She now says she won't take up that issue until July, which is eight months later than the original schedule. If that delay carries through to the rest of the case, that suggests the trial might not start until January, which would be, of course, after the election and raises the question that if Trump is elected president, whether the trial will happen at all.

FADEL: NPR's Greg Allen. Thank you, Greg.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.