Trump Signals Plans to Go After Intelligence Community in Document Case

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Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump said in court papers filed on Tuesday night that they intended to place accusations that the intelligence community was biased against Mr. Trump at the heart of their defense against charges accusing him of illegally holding onto dozens of highly sensitive classified documents after he left office.

The lawyers also indicated that they were planning to defend Mr. Trump by seeking to prove that the investigation of the case was “politically motivated and biased.”

The court papers, filed in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla., gave the clearest picture yet of the scorched earth legal strategy that Mr. Trump is apparently planning to use in fighting the classified documents indictment handed up over the summer.

While the 68-page filing was formally a request by Mr. Trump’s lawyers to the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, to provide them with reams of additional information that they believe can help them fight the charges, it often read more like a list of political talking points than a brief of legal arguments.

Criminal defendants routinely make such requests in what are known as motions to compel discovery, but many of the requests in Mr. Trump’s filing appeared intended to paint Mr. Trump as the victim of the spy agencies that once served him and of purported collusion between the Biden administration and prosecutors who have filed some of the four criminal cases he now faces.

That portrait was in keeping with Mr. Trump’s persistent refrain that the so-called “deep state” has been out to get him nearly from the moment he entered public service. Such allegations have proved politically useful to Mr. Trump even if his evidence in support of them has often been dubious or lacking.

The nation’s spy services took center stage in the papers, given that intelligence officials are likely to testify at trial about what Mr. Trump’s lawyers called their “subjective assessments” of the more than 30 classified documents that the former president is accused of removing from the White House.

“One of the ways in which President Trump will challenge that testimony is by demonstrating that the intelligence community has operated with a bias against him dating back to at least the 2019 whistle-blower complaint relating to his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky,” two of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Todd Blanche and Christopher M. Kise, wrote, referring to the incident that resulted in Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial.

Mr. Blanche and Mr. Kise said they planned to use “evidence relating to analytic bias harbored by the intelligence community” to undermine the prosecution’s contention that the documents Mr. Trump took with him were connected to issues of national defense. Mr. Smith’s team will have to prove such connections for jurors to find the former president guilty of violating the Espionage Act, the central statute he is accused of breaking.

While the specific contents of the documents remain unknown, the indictment says that some are related to nuclear secrets and military plans against U.S. adversaries. The documents, which came from several intelligence agencies, were among the most highly classified records the federal government had, court papers say.

Mr. Trump’s legal team has persistently derided all of the cases he is facing as partisan attacks against him as he mounts his third bid for the White House. And in the filing on Tuesday night, Mr. Blanche and Mr. Kise asked Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who is overseeing the classified documents case, to force Mr. Smith to give them any “documents and communications reflecting bias and/or political animus toward President Trump” by members of his own prosecution team.

The lawyers further asked for any communications between Mr. Smith’s team and the White House, as well as for those between the White House and local prosecutors in Georgia who have charged Mr. Trump in a sprawling racketeering indictment with seeking to overturn the results of that state’s election in 2020.

The filing additionally asked for information about one of Mr. Smith’s chief deputies, Thomas P. Windom, who has taken the lead in prosecuting the other federal case that Mr. Trump is facing — one in which he stands accused of plotting to overturn his 2020 loss to Joseph R. Biden Jr. In a previously undisclosed detail, the filing noted that Mr. Windom had also played a sizable role in prosecuting the classified documents case.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers noted, for example, that the National Archives, which set in motion the document investigation after it discovered sensitive records in a trove of materials that Mr. Trump returned to its office after leaving the White House, had reached out to Mr. Windom in February 2022. The lawyers said that Mr. Windom, aside from the interviews he conducted during the election interference case, also conducted 29 interviews in the classified document case.

The filing also asked for additional information about a security clearance from the Energy Department that Mr. Trump somehow maintained well after leaving office. That “inconvenient truth,” as his lawyers described it, could help Mr. Trump defend himself against charges that he illegally held on to at least one of the documents in the case — a record related to “nuclear weaponry.”

The filing on Tuesday night was similar in tone and substance to a discovery request that Mr. Trump’s lawyers made in November in the election interference case, which is unfolding in Federal District Court in Washington.

In that filing, the lawyers suggested that they planned to question the findings of the intelligence community that the 2020 election was conducted fairly. They also indicated that they intended to raise a host of distractions as part of their defense, saying they wanted to drag unrelated matters like the criminal prosecution of Mr. Biden’s son Hunter into the case.



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