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Former President Donald Trump’s attorneys are seeking to delay a classified documents case due to concerns that the documents found in boxes at Mar-a-Lago have shifted out of order since being seized by FBI agents two years ago. This shuffling of documents within the boxes could potentially be grounds for the case to be dismissed, as the prosecution may not be able to prove how the evidence was handled. In response to these concerns, the federal judge presiding over the case has paused certain pretrial deadlines and hearings, with further orders expected.

A recent court filing from special counsel Jack Smith’s office acknowledged that the order of documents within the boxes obtained from Mar-a-Lago has changed since the Justice Department first took custody of them. Trump’s attorneys expressed deep concern over these revelations, stating that it raises questions about the investigation and handling of evidence that need to be addressed before the case proceeds. Trump was charged with mishandling national defense information after classified documents were found mixed in with personal effects at Mar-a-Lago, and he has pleaded not guilty.

The defense of Trump and his co-defendants may hinge on the order of the documents within the boxes, which has now become a central issue in the case. Defense lawyers are requesting delays in order to address the disruption caused by the revelation that the documents have shifted out of order. Trump’s attorneys had relied on the order of the classified material when reviewing the boxes during the discovery process and believe that the buried nature of the classified material may help clear Trump of any wrongdoing.

Initially, the boxes seized from Mar-a-Lago were reviewed for privileged materials by a team of DOJ attorneys separate from the investigation team. Subsequently, classified documents within the boxes were removed and replaced with placeholder sheets as part of another review by investigators. A special master appointed by the judge also scanned the boxes’ contents to create inventories. However, there are discrepancies in the order of items within some of the boxes, as noted in recent court filings from prosecutors in response to requests from the defense for postponing pretrial deadlines.

One of Trump’s co-defendants, Walt Nauta, has argued that prosecutors have not sufficiently proven that the boxes he is accused of moving from a Mar-a-Lago storage room contained the classified documents sought by investigators. Despite the evidence discrepancies, special counsel Jack Smith has argued that Nauta’s ability to meet deadlines should not be impacted. The court has since removed the deadline for disclosing classified materials for the defense. The story continues to evolve, with additional developments expected in the ongoing legal proceedings.

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