FORT PIERCE, Florida — Former President Donald Trump arrived in federal court Monday to meet face-to-face with U.S District Judge Aileen Cannon for the first time.
Trump arrived at the courthouse with his motorcade at about 9 a.m. but did not speak to the supporters and press who’d gathered outside.
Cannon is holding two separate closed-door court sessions Monday as part of the process involving classified evidence related to Trump’s federal classified documents case in Florida.
Authorities accuse the former president of retaining documents containing national security secrets at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home, after he left office and obstructing the federal investigation into how those records wound up outside of the strict channels for handling such information.
As part of that process, Cannon scheduled a four-and-a-half hour hearing Monday with Trump’s legal team where they and lawyers for his two co-defendants were expected to present — outside the presence of prosecutors — the theories the defense may use at trial.
The defense lawyers are expected to explain to Cannon why they should be permitted to access various types of classified evidence that might support those defenses.
Trump was not required to attend the session Monday, but chose to do so anyway — continuing a recent trend on his part of showing up at court proceedings in an apparent effort to highlight his claims he is being persecuted. It’s also the first time he will ever be face to face with Cannon, his nominee to the bench who was confirmed days after the 2020 election. Until now, Trump has not appeared before either of the judges presiding over his federal criminal cases.
The meetings come amid increasingly pitched complaints by prosecutors about Cannon’s actions in the case. In filings, they warned the judge that she risked endangering trial witnesses if she didn’t rescind a recent ruling to unseal their identities. They also used a recent filing to dispel what they claimed was a distorted version of events in the case that they said risked taking root without pushback.
Monday afternoon, Cannon is also scheduled to hold a two-hour session with prosecutors outside the presence of Trump’s legal team. That is likely to feature a discussion of the potential repercussions of giving Trump and his co-defendants the evidence they are seeking and whether so-called substitutions for certain evidence — like deleting the names of certain countries or the details of some sensitive intelligence sources — could be adequate to let the defendants make their points in court.
Cannon also told both sides to hold their calendars open for Tuesday in case she needs additional time to work through the classified evidence issues.
Because of the nature of the discussions, they have to take place in a space authorized for discussion of some of the most sensitive national security secrets controlled by the U.S. government. The requirement for a high-level sensitive compartmented information facility has complicated and delayed some earlier proceedings in the case.
It appears that the two-courtroom Fort Pierce federal courthouse has now been approved for such hearings, although it’s unclear whether the designation is a permanent one that will allow the judge to retain top-secret documents at the courthouse or if it’s just temporary for this week’s court sessions.