Justice Dept. Begins Turning Over Evidence to Trump Team in Classified Documents Case

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department said Wednesday night that it had begun turning over evidence to former President Donald Trump's legal team as his lawyers prepare a defense to charges that he illegally retained classified documents.

The evidence includes transcripts of grand jury testimony taken in both Washington and Florida, copies of closed-circuit television footage obtained by the government and copies of interviews of Trump "conducted by non-government entities, which were recorded with his consent and obtained" by the prosecution team of special counsel Jack Smith.

The interviews include an audio-recorded July 2021 meeting with a writer and publisher at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club in which Trump, according to the indictment, showed and described a Pentagon "plan of attack" that he said was prepared for him by the Defense Department. Also turned over to Trump's lawyers are public statements he made that are referenced in the indictment.

Trump was indicted this month on 37 felony charges, including 31 counts under the Espionage Act that accuse him of willfully retaining national defense information. He has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.

The sharing of information and evidence between parties is routine in a court case so that lawyers can prepare a defense. Earlier this week, a federal magistrate imposed a protective order to restrict the public disclosure of evidence that Trump receives through the information-sharing process, known as discovery.

The judge in the case, Aileen Cannon, set an initial trial date of Aug. 14, though that date is expected to slip considerably given the complicated disputes ahead over the scope of evidence in the case.