July 27, 2023 - The special counsel's investigation into Donald Trump

By Matt Meyer, Aditi Sangal and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 11:49 PM ET, Thu July 27, 2023
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11:05 p.m. ET, July 27, 2023

Prosecutors argue against Trump team’s push to discuss classified information at his homes

From CNN's From Katelyn Polantz

Donald Trump's lawyers want to be able to discuss classified information with the former president at his homes as part of his criminal case, for convenience's sake, according to a new court filing from the Justice Department — a proposal that federal prosecutors strongly oppose as out of line with how sensitive information can be handled.

Prosecutors in the classified documents case want Trump and his lawyers only to work with and talk about classified details in his case inside a specially protected room, called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF. 

But the DOJ said on Thursday that Trump's team "expressed concerns regarding the inconvenience posed by this limitation and requested that Defendant Trump be permitted to discuss classified information with his counsel in his office at Mar-a-Lago, and possibly Bedminster," according to a new court filing. "The government is not aware of any case in which a defendant has been permitted to discuss classified information in a private residence, and such exceptional treatment would not be consistent with the law."

The dispute between the special counsel's office and Trump's defense team was made public in a court filing Thursday where the Justice Department explained why both sides haven't come to an agreement on how to protect classified evidence in the case before trial.  

Prosecutors have asked the judge, Aileen Cannon in Fort Pierce, Florida, to mandate that classified information in the case can only be viewed, stored and discussed in controlled settings under the oversight of an appointed classified information officer.

Trump’s team has not fully explained their position in court at this time, and the judge hasn’t weighed in.

The DOJ said Thursday a "significant portion" of the classified information that the defense team will receive before trial is so highly sensitive it must only be viewed in a SCIF. Many of the records Trump is accused of mishandling are at the sensitive compartmented level as well.

The filing was largely overshadowed on Thursday by the Justice Department securing expanded criminal charges against Trump and two of his employees in the case. Yet the arguments highlight the ongoing struggle the federal government has had with the ex-President regarding the handling of national security records.

“Defendant Trump’s personal residences and offices are not lawful locations for the discussion of classified information, any more than they would be for any private citizen. Since the conclusion of Defendant Trump’s presidency, neither the Mar-a-Lago Club nor the Bedminster Club has been an authorized location for the storage, possession, review, display, or discussion of classified information,” prosecutors wrote in the court filing Thursday.
“It is particularly striking that he seeks permission to do so in the very location at which he is charged with willfully retaining the documents charged in this case.”
10:52 p.m. ET, July 27, 2023

Presidential candidate Will Hurd says Trump is a "national security risk"

From CNN's Brian Rokus

Will Hurd, a Republican presidential hopeful, reacted to tonight’s new charges against Donald Trump by saying the former president’s actions are “spitting in the face” of those who protect the United States.

“If you are deleting evidence, it’s because you know you’re committing a crime. And anybody who supports this, anybody who defends this, is complicit in endangering America,” Hurd told CNN's Abby Phillip, adding that he believes Trump is running for president to stay out of jail.

“He’s more worried about not dying in prison than he is in doing what’s right for the country,” Hurd said.

Hurd also attacked Trump for not explaining what kind of security was in place to protect the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

“Donald Trump is a national security risk,” Hurd said, noting the international optics of the situation. “You know who is laughing right now? Our adversaries,” Hurd said.

“This is a level of criminality we haven’t seen before, maybe Richard Nixon,” Hurd added.

10:50 p.m. ET, July 27, 2023

Ex-Trump intelligence chief says improper handling of classified documents comes with "deadly consequences"

From CNN's Piper Hudspeth Blackburn

Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Thursday he didn't have a direct conversation with Donald Trump about handling classified information during his presidency – but thought the former president’s staff would have addressed that with him.

Classified information, Coats told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, is “more than just a bunch of papers,” and he warned that improper handling of documents can have “deadly consequences.”

“Lives can be lost, money can be misspent,” said Coats, a Republican. “Our adversaries are out there, searching, trying to get this kind of information, because they want to undermine us."

Asked by Collins what he thought of Trump allegedly sharing classified information with individuals who do not have security clearances, Coats said that the information “is classified for a reason.”

“It's so critical that we abide by the rules, and, obviously, those of us in high positions are surrounded by people who know that,” he said.

Coats, a former US senator for Indiana, was DNI from 2017 to 2019.

9:55 p.m. ET, July 27, 2023

What to know about the new charges in the classified documents case against Trump

From CNN's Tierney Sneed and Jeremy Herb

Special counsel Jack Smith expanded his classified documents case against former President Donald Trump, making significant new allegations that Trump and his employees attempted to delete Mar-a-Lago security footage sought by the grand jury investigating the mishandling of the government records.

Here's what to know about the new charges in the classified documents case:

Trump "requested" deletion of security footage: The indictment accuses Trump of being part of the effort to delete security footage from Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort, after it was subpoenaed, saying that Trump “requested” that a resort employee delete footage in order “to prevent the footage from being provided to a federal grand jury.”

Trump's alleged mishandling of an Iran attack: The new indictment brings the number of counts Trump faces for retaining national defense information to up 32, with prosecutors adding a new count to the 31 they previously brought for a classified document described by prosecutors as a top secret “presentation concerning military activity in a foreign country.”

Trump allegedly touted the document – which CNN previously reported related to Iran attack plans – in a taped July 2021 interview with biographers at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club.

The new changes and details in the superseding indictment contradict Trump’s past denials about the document in question. Trump had previously denied that the document he discussed in the audio tapes was a government document, describing it instead as a news clipping.

A new defendant: The new court filings lay out the role Carlos De Oliveira allegedly played in an attempt by Trump aide Walt Nauta and the former president made to delete footage that was being sought by a grand jury subpoena. De Oliveira, 56, was also charged with making false statements in a January interview with the FBI when he was asked about the movement of boxes at the Florida resort.

Prosecutors describe the new defendant as Mar-a-Lago’s property manager who previously worked as a valet at the resort.

After the FBI executed a search warrant on Mar-a-Lago last August, Nauta discussed with an unidentified employee De Oliveira’s loyalty, according to prosecutors, and requested that the employee confirm De Oliveira’s loyalty in a group signal chat with a representative for Trump’s political action committee.

What happens next: De Oliveira is scheduled for an arraignment on the charges in Miami’s federal courthouse on Monday morning, set to take place before Chief Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres.

It’s not yet clear how the new charges will affect the pace of the case against Trump and Nauta. Currently, the trial – which is slated to take place in Ft. Pierce, Florida, in front of US District Judge Aileen Cannon – is scheduled to start in late May 2024.

But even before the new charges were unveiled, it was possible for that trial date to be pushed further back.

Attorneys for De Olivera and Nauta have declined to comment.

8:53 p.m. ET, July 27, 2023

A look into the timeline of the special counsel inquiry into Trump’s handling of classified documents

From CNN's Marshall Cohen, Holmes Lybrand and Hannah Rabinowitz

This image contained in a court filing by the Department of Justice on August 30, 2022, and partially redacted by the source, shows a photo of documents seized during the Aug. 8 FBI search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate.
This image contained in a court filing by the Department of Justice on August 30, 2022, and partially redacted by the source, shows a photo of documents seized during the Aug. 8 FBI search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. Department of Justice

The federal criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s potential mishandling of classified documents has escalated with additional charges against the former president.

Here’s a timeline of the important developments in the blockbuster investigation:

May 2021: An official from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) contacts Trump’s team after realizing that several important documents weren’t handed over before Trump left the White House.

July 2021: In a taped conversation, Trump acknowledges that he still has a classified Pentagon document about a possible attack against Iran, according to CNN reporting.

Fall 2021: NARA grows frustrated with the slow pace of document turnover after several months of conversations with the Trump team. NARA lawyer Gary Stern reaches out to another Trump attorney to intervene. The archivist asks about several boxes of records that were apparently taken to Mar-a-Lago during Trump’s relocation to Florida. NARA still doesn’t receive the White House documents they are searching for.

January 18, 2022: After months of discussions with Trump’s team, NARA retrieves 15 boxes of Trump White House records from Mar-a-Lago. The boxes contained some materials that were part of “special access programs,” known as SAP, which is a classification that includes protocols to significantly limit who would have access to the information.

February 9, 2022: NARA asks the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records and whether he violated the Presidential Records Act and other laws related to classified information.

February 18, 2022: NARA informs the Justice Department that some of the documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago included classified material. NARA also tells the department that, despite being warned it was illegal, Trump occasionally tore up government documents while he was president.

April 11, 2022: The FBI asks NARA for access to the 15 boxes it retrieved from Mar-a-Lago in January. The request was formally transmitted to NARA by President Joe Biden’s White House Counsel’s office, because the incumbent president controls presidential documents in NARA custody.

April 29, 2022: The Justice Department sends a letter to Trump’s lawyers as part of its effort to access the 15 boxes, notifying them that more than 100 classified documents, totaling more than 700 pages, were found in the boxes.

Read more here:

7:42 p.m. ET, July 27, 2023

New allegations contradict what Trump said about document from taped Bedminster meeting

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

New details in the superseding indictment against former President Donald Trump contradict his previous denials about the classified Iran attack plans that he flaunted during an audiotaped meeting at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. 

The new charges filed by special counsel Jack Smith confirm that the document in question was indeed classified and about “military activity in a foreign country,” which CNN reported is Iran.

Over the past few months, Trump has denied that the paper he showed to biographers at Bedminster in July 2021 was a government document and claimed it was merely a news clipping.

“There was no document,” Trump told Fox News on June 19. “That was a massive amount of papers and everything else talking about Iran and other things.”
“And it may have been held up or may not, but that was not a document. I didn’t have a document, per se. There was nothing to declassify. These were newspaper stories, magazine stories and articles,” Trump said in the interview. 

Trump previously pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him.

7:39 p.m. ET, July 27, 2023

Trump rails against new charges as "election interference" and "prosecutorial misconduct"

From CNN's Alayna Treene

Former President Donald Trump railed against the latest charges filed by special counsel Jack Smith in an interview with Fox News Digital on Thursday, claiming they amount to "election interference at the highest level" and "prosecutorial misconduct."

"They’re harassing my company, they’re harassing my family and by far, least importantly of all, they’re harassing me," Trump said in his first public comments since Smith brought additional charges in the case alleging he mishandled classified documents after his presidency.

He also claimed that his position in the 2024 presidential election polls has made him a target of the Justice Department.  

"If I weren’t leading Biden by a lot in numerous polls, and wasn’t going to be the Republican nominee, it wouldn’t be happening. It wouldn’t be happening," Trump said. "But I am way up as a Republican and way up in the general election and this is what you get." 

Trump said that "our country is suffering from DOJ abuse," adding that, "Hopefully the Republican Party will do something about it."

Some context: Legal drama surrounding the former president has never been more intense, as he has already been indicted twice this year and continues to face other legal challenges on multiple fronts. Trump has repeatedly dismissed the cases as politically motivated.

In the classified documents case, prosecutors have laid out a narrative about how Trump allegedly conspired with employees to improperly keep documents — and how he allegedly requested that video evidence of their presence at his Mar-a-Lago resort be deleted.

7:50 p.m. ET, July 27, 2023

Trump and his employees allegedly conspired to keep classified documents, indictment says

From CNN's Devan Cole

The new indictment details how former President Donald Trump, his aide Walt Nauta and Mar-a-Lago employee Carlos De Oliveira allegedly conspired to keep classified White House documents and “conceal them from a federal grand jury,” including by suggesting to one of the former president’s attorneys that he lie to investigators. 

The document lays out seven different ways the three defendants allegedly carried out the conspiracy, with prosecutors saying that they suggested that one of Trump’s attorneys “falsely represent to the FBI and grand jury that TRUMP did not have documents called for by the May 11 Subpoena.” 

The other aspects of the alleged conspiracy include moving boxes of documents to hide them from the attorney, FBI and grand jury, as well as suggesting that the lawyer “hide or destroy documents” called for in the May 2022 subpoena. 

Prosecutors also said the defendants were “attempting to delete security camera footage from The Mar-a-Lago Club to conceal the footage from the FBI and grand jury.” 

7:12 p.m. ET, July 27, 2023

A Trump employee charged with lying to the FBI allegedly told federal agents he "never saw anything"

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz

Prosecutors allege that Carlos De Oliveira, an employee at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, falsely told federal investigators that he did not help move boxes of the former president’s belongings when they arrived at the resort in 2021.

The allegation is part of the new charges in the case surrounding the former president's handling of classified documents after he left the White House.

In a voluntary interview with FBI agents in January, De Oliveira allegedly falsely stated that he “never saw anything” being moved into Mar-a-Lago after Trump’s presidency. 

“When — after the end of the presidency — boxes arrived to Mar-a-Lago, were you part of any group to help (move boxes)?” an agent asked, according to a transcript of the interview included in court documents.

“No,” De Oliveira said, despite allegedly helping Trump aide Walt Nauta move boxes of classified documents around Mar-a-Lago after the Justice Department first subpoenaed Trump for classified documents last May.  

The agent later asked whether De Oliveira was ever “aware” that “all this stuff was being moved in?”   

“Never saw anything,” De Oliveira allegedly replied.

The new indictment also alleges that Trump, Nauta and De Oliveira asked a Mar-a-Lago employee to delete security camera footage from the Florida club to keep that footage from investigators.