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Closed hearings on Trump classified documents evidence get underway

The hearings began Monday, days after the special counsel warned of "significant and immediate" threats to witnesses in the unsealing of materials.
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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.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon met with Trump's defense team in the morning at the federal courthouse in Fort Pierce, Florida, and then with the special counsel's prosecutors in the afternoon.

A caravan of black SUVs with tinted windows arrived outside the courthouse Monday morning, accompanied by law enforcement. The motorcade left a little after 2 p.m. ET.

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 he would be there, NBC affiliate WPTV of West Palm Beach reported.

The Trump campaign and the St. Lucie County GOP did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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. She delayed her initial order Friday.

The special counsel's filing cited an exhibit that includes “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.

On Tuesday morning, Cannon will hold a sealed hearing with the special counsel’s office and attorneys for Trump co-defendants Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira regarding classified information in discovery and access to the information, according to a court filing Monday night. The hearing will take place in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF.

Trump is not required to appear Tuesday, but his counsel is allowed to attend. Nauta and De Oliveira are not permitted to attend.

Trump faces multiple criminal charges, 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 it faces a Feb. 22 deadline for pretrial motions.

Trump; Nauta, his personal aide; and De Oliveira, a worker at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, have pleaded not guilty to charges related to Trump’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 at a scheduling conference set for March 1.