Special counsel refutes Trump’s assertion that his ‘Q clearance’ allowed him to possess a document on ‘nuclear weaponry of the United States’ at Mar-a-Lago

An aerial photograph captures the magnificent Mar-a-Lago estate of former President Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida. The image, taken on August 10, 2022, showcases the grandeur of the property. The estate, renowned for its opulence, holds a significant place in Trump’s legacy.

In a comprehensive legal document opposing Donald Trump’s motion to dismiss Espionage Act charges, special counsel Jack Smith firmly stated that the former president cannot evade accountability by invoking “Q clearance” claims. Smith emphasized that Trump must face accusations of intentionally holding onto a document related to nuclear weaponry at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

In their February motion to dismiss, Trump’s lawyers specifically targeted count 19 as an egregious violation of the defendant’s alleged “Q” clearance according to the Department of Energy. They argued that this count was unconstitutional due to its vague nature.

The defense, in their motion to compel discovery, explained that following the filing of the Superseding Indictment, the Special Counsel’s Office disclosed Energy Department records that showed President Trump held the relevant ‘Q’ clearance during the time period specified in Count 19. The defense argued that, regardless of the unclear meaning of §793(e), the Authorization Clause does not forbid the possession of a document by someone with a valid security clearance. Furthermore, they asserted that an individual with the appropriate clearance level cannot willfully violate the statute.

The nineteenth count in the Trump indictment pertains to the deliberate retention of national defense information. Specifically, it involves an undated document regarding the nuclear weaponry of the United States. The period of offense for this count spans from Joe Biden’s inauguration as president until August 8, 2022. It is worth noting that the FBI conducted a search at Mar-a-Lago during this time.

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On Thursday, Jack Smith expressed his opinion on the Trump team’s argument regarding count 19, stating that it “lacks merit” for “several reasons.”

Jack Smith strongly criticizes the arguments put forth by Donald Trump and Stephen Miller, stating that they are “fundamentally wrong.” He rejects the notion that the Presidential Records Act should be used to dismiss the potential prosecution of Mar-a-Lago.

Smith explained that the indictment accurately aligns with the legal language and accuses Trump of possessing the document mentioned in Count 19 without authorization and intentionally keeping it. Additionally, the special counsel asserted that during the trial, they would present evidence demonstrating that Trump’s “Q clearance” expired at noon on Inauguration Day in 2021 as a matter of law, regardless of the Department of Energy’s records that may suggest otherwise.

Second, at trial the Government will show that the evidence identified by Trump shows that he did not possess a security clearance after the end of his term in office. As reflected in records produced in discovery and cited by Trump, “as a matter of law, the Q clearance granted to Donald J. Trump on February 9, 2017, terminated, by the conditions of its original grant, upon the completion of Mr. Trump’s term as President of the United States at 12:00 PM on January 20, 2021.” ECF No. 262, Ex. 59 at USA-01116848. Whether or not the Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) records were up to date or continued to reflect an active Q clearance after Trump’s term had ended, it has no bearing on Trump’s actual entitlement to access documents requiring a Q clearance.

According to the special counsel, it is crucial to note that there are no grounds to dismiss the charge. The special counsel stressed that even if Trump had a Q clearance after his presidency (which he did not), it would not give him the authority to possess the document mentioned in Count 19 at Mar-a-Lago. Moreover, the defense failed to provide any evidence supporting the claim that the former president was aware of the Department of Energy’s internal perspective on his “Q clearance” status.

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