(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump’s legal team is seeking a trove of classified documents from the Justice Department as it prepares to argue at his upcoming criminal trial that he was right to doubt the results of the 2020 election.
The approach will bring Trump’s continued political broadside against his loss of the presidency into court as the former president alleges a vast government conspiracy against him, all as he seeks to retake the White House.
Trump’s defense team is asking for information from several past government investigations, including around the election results and about the recent classified documents probe into his former Vice President Mike Pence. He says these records could be exculpatory, helping in his defense, if they show some agencies exploring election interference in 2020.
Multiple investigations have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, and prosecutors say Trump knew he had lost the election while publicly refusing to concede.
The requests came in a court filing late Monday night as part of the Trump legal team’s attempts to build a defense for his upcoming federal trial for attempting to obstruct the transfer of power at the end of his presidency. His defense team specifically asks for dozens of types of records about election interference investigations and other 2020-related communications from a variety of federal agencies, including the Justice Department, National Archives, the Defense Department and the intelligence community.
“President Trump is entitled to all information supporting his position that his concerns regarding fraud during the 2020 election—rather than ‘knowingly false’ or criminal—were plausible and maintained in good faith,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “To prop up the Biden Administration’s preferred political advocacy regarding the 2020 election, the indictment endorses the alleged views of ‘Senior White House Attorneys,’ ‘senior leaders of the Justice Department,’ ‘the Intelligence Community,’ the ‘Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.’”
It’s not determined yet if Trump will be able to make those arguments before a jury, and a judge will have to decide if his legal team can get the records he is seeking.
Monday’s requests aim to expand Trump’s defense team’s access to federal agency records and to unearth for his team’s review more classified information than what they can see now.
Trump’s classified information bid seeks protected parts of secret intelligence community and cybersecurity reports on the 2016 and 2020 elections, among other classified information. If the judge allows him to access those records, a need for more procedures to handle classified information could play into Trump’s attempts to delay his trial.
Ironically, the former president is also seeking records about investigations into Russia and other foreign nation’s attempts to influence presidential elections –- a political reality that Trump had tried to distance himself and his campaign from for years after his 2016 win of the presidency.
“Evidence of covert foreign disinformation campaigns relating to the 2020 election supports the defense argument that President Trump and others acted in good faith even if certain reports were ultimately determined to be inaccurate,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in the court filings.
Prosecutors, his lawyers said, “cannot blame President Trump for public discord and distrust of the 2020 election results while refusing to turn over evidence that foreign actors stoked the very same flames that the Office identifies as inculpatory in the indictment.”
Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the case in the federal district court in Washington, DC, refused earlier on Monday to allow Trump to subpoena records from the House select committee that investigated January 6 in a separate evidence-gathering attempt his team already made.
Trump has pleaded not guilty. The trial is set to begin in March.
Hoping to discredit Pence
The Trump team’s request for information about the Pence investigation posits that Pence may have spoken with investigators to help himself while a separate inquiry looked at the handling of classified records.
The Pence classified records investigation came about earlier this year after Pence’s team found marked documents at his home in the wake of the criminal investigation into Trump’s mishandling of classified records. The Pence investigation ended with no criminal charges in June.
Pence testified to a federal grand jury in the 2020 election investigation in the spring.
“The potential criminal charges faced by Vice President Pence gave him an incentive to curry favor with authorities by providing information that is consistent with the Biden Administration’s preferred, and false, narrative regarding this case,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.
A spokesman for Pence declined to comment on Tuesday.
Pence’s confidential testimony in the Trump 2020 election case, some of his aides testified, was under oath before a federal grand jury, and a judge decided he must answer questions under subpoena.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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