US judge orders Trump lawyers not to release evidence in documents probe

By Douglas Gillison and Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) -A U.S. judge in Florida on Monday ordered defense lawyers for former President Donald Trump not to release evidence in the classified documents case to the media or the public, according to a court filing.

The order from U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart also put strict conditions on Trump’s access to the materials.

“The Discovery materials, along with any information derived therefrom, shall not be disclosed to the public or the news media, or disseminated on any news or social media platform, without prior notice to and consent of the United States or approval of the Court,” the order filed on Monday said.

It also specified that Trump “shall not retain copies” and that he may only review case materials “under the direct supervision of Defense Counsel or a member of Defense Counsel’s staff.”

The order granted a motion filed last week by prosecutors who had asked the court to put conditions on how the defense stores and uses the documents.

Trump, who is the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, was indicted on federal charges earlier this month. He was accused of illegally retaining classified government documents after leaving the White House and then conspiring to obstruct a federal probe of the matter.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in court to all 37 counts.

He defended his handling of the boxes in an interview with Fox News on Monday, saying that he needed to go through the boxes to remove personal items including golf shirts, pants and shoes.

“Before I send boxes over, I have to take all of my things out. These boxes were interspersed with all sorts of things,” Trump said. “I was very busy, as you’ve sort of seen.”

Trump repeated his claim that the boxes contained magazine articles, personal items and art. The Justice Department told a court that the boxes contained highly classified documents, including a plan to attack Iran.

The former president faces other legal hurdles, having been indicted by New York City prosecutors in connection with an alleged hush-money payment to a porn star.

Special Counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, is also probing Trump’s alleged role in actions surrounding his loss in the 2020 presidential election that culminated in Trump supporters’ deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump is also being investigated in connection with efforts to change the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in Georgia.

(Reporting by Douglas Gillison, Kanishka Singh and Moira Warburton; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)