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Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 Defense Gamble Straight Out of Prigozhin’s Playbook

Prosecutors are trying to stop former U.S. President Donald Trump from requesting classified documents in his election subversion case, fearing it could collapse the trial.

The Justice Department has filed a motion in a Washington, D.C., court to halt Trump from obtaining documents related to foreign interference in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.

It was just such a request that collapsed the trial of two Russian government-linked companies in March 2020.

trump rally in NH

The companies were accused of interfering in the presidential election and requested classified documents from the U.S. government to bolster their defense.

At the time, the Justice Department dropped the charges rather than hand over the highly classified documents to the Russians’ defense team, citing “a risk of exposure of law enforcement’s tools and techniques.”

In August, Trump was charged with “dishonesty, fraud and deceit to impair, obstruct, and defeat the lawful federal government function by which the results of the presidential election are collected, counted and certified by the federal government”— the same charge that was leveled in the 2020 Russian case.

In their court submissions on October 26, Trump’s lawyers told Judge Tanya Chutkan that they want to use the classified documents to show that Trump was trying to save the 2020 election from foreign interference, in contrast with prosecution claims that he was trying to illegally interfere in the election.

Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith and his team filed a classified response on Friday opposing Trump’s attempts to obtain the documents.

Smith team member Thomas P. Windom notified Chutkan on Friday that prosecutors have submitted their motion to block Trump’s request to a classified information security officer, who then stores it until the judge is ready to review it.

Under federal rules, all motions that reference classified documents have to be submitted to a security officer to ensure secrecy.

Friday’s prosecution filing, the details of which are not viewable by the general public, is titled “Government’s Motion to Strike Defendant’s CIPA Section 5 Notice.”

Under Section 5 of the Classified Information Procedures Act, a defendant, such as Trump, who “reasonably intends to disclose classified information” must “provide timely pretrial written notice of his intention to the Court and the Government.”

That follows the submission by Trump’s lawyers, in which they notified Chutkan that Trump wishes to obtain “classified information at trial relating to foreign influence activities that impacted the 2016 and 2020 elections, as well as efforts by his administration to combat those activities.”

“President Trump will also present classified information relating to the biased and politicized nature of the intelligence assessments that he and others rejected during the events in question,” their submission reads.

It also states that his legal team has already alerted the security officer to inform them that Trump will need classified documents at trial.

His legal team’s submission states that, between the classified information on foreign interference and biased intelligence reports, “this evidence will undercut central theories of the prosecution and establish that President Trump acted at all times in good faith and on the belief that he was doing what he had been elected to do.”

The submission notes that Smith has argued in legal submissions earlier in October that “the classified discovery issues” in this case are “limited,” “tangential,” “narrow” and “incidental” because “the charges … do not rely on classified materials.”

In his submissions, Smith references the 2020 Russian case several times as an example of why the U.S. government must be guarded in handing over classified documents to defense lawyers.

Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential race.

Newsweek sought legal comment via email on Monday from Trump’s attorney.

Trump faces four counts related to interference in the 2020 election, culminating with the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, in which Trump supporters attempted to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden as president.

Trump’s classified documents request has parallels to the 2020 Russian case, in which the Department of Justice dropped the charges just one day before the trial of two Russian firms, Concord Management and Concord Consulting.

They were partially owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the late St. Petersburg businessman and founder of the Wagner mercenary group, then one of Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s closest allies.

The indictment detailed activities of an operation called the Internet Research Agency, in which Russians in a St. Petersburg office building were accused of impersonating Americans on social media in an attempt to disrupt the 2016 presidential election between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The agency was accused of spreading fake news and organizing pro-Clinton and pro-Trump rallies in the same location in attempts to trigger social disruption in America.

Prigozhin later fell out of favor with Putin when Prigozhin’s Wagner group rebelled in June 2023 while fighting for Russia in Ukraine. Prigozhin died in an August plane crash in Russia along with nine others.

White House National Security Spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement at the time that “no one should be surprised” by Prigozhin’s death.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said of Prigozhin’s death that “the disastrous war in Ukraine led to a private army marching on Moscow, and now—it would seem—to this.”

Source : Newsweek