Former President Donald J. Trump and his lawyers spent about five hours inside a secure space in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla., on Monday, for a hearing to explain their defense strategy to the judge overseeing the case in which Mr. Trump is charged with illegally retaining classified documents after he left office.
The purpose of the closed hearing was to give Mr. Trump’s team a chance to convince Judge Aileen M. Cannon that they should have access to highly classified materials that federal prosecutors have cited as potential evidence. The prosecutorial team led by Jack Smith, the special counsel in charge of the federal investigations into Mr. Trump, has argued that the materials in question have no relevance or utility to the former president’s defense.
It was the first time Mr. Trump and Judge Cannon had met in the courthouse. Mr. Trump appointed Judge Cannon to the bench in 2020.
While the proceedings inside the courthouse were sealed off from the public, o dozens of Mr. Trump’s supporters waited outside behind barricades on a cordoned-off street to see his motorcade come and go. Music blared and supporters held signs that said “Florida is Trump country” and waved flags that said “The Donfather 2024.” The St. Lucie County Republican Party had given local members a heads-up on Sunday that Mr. Trump would be at the Fort Pierce courthouse the following day.
Mr. Trump, who typically likes to use these court appearances as campaign stops, did not stop to talk to his supporters as his motorcade left.
Highly classified material that prosecutors do not want to share with a defendant in national security cases typically has to do with sources and methods of intelligence collection, said David Aaron, a former federal national security prosecutor. These are details that prosecutors say have little bearing on the evidence used against the defendant at trial, he said.
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