Stan Woodward Claims He Doesn’t Know Where the Missing Beautiful Mind Boxes Went

Perhaps the most amazing detail in the stolen documents transcript of last week’s hearing before Judge Aileen Cannon is that until the summer, Trump still had a Q clearance.

There is a category of documents that it — actually in unclassified discovery, we learned a week or two ago that there is a certain category of documents that require what is called a “Q clearance” and it includes one of the charged documents, and we learned that it’s a Department of Energy program. We learned that President Trump continued to have an active security clearance, even after he was indicted in this case, with the Department of Energy. Now that, in our view, is the definition of Brady. It was — I’m not going to say it was buried, but it was provided to us in discovery as part of miscellaneous materials at some point in the third or fourth production. I mean, it is literally a memo from the Department of Energy dated June — dated late June of this year, June 28th of this year, saying that, oh, we should remove Donald J. Trump from the person who has an active security clearance. He has been charged with possessing a document in violation of federal law, when he has an active security clearance with the holder of that document.

The detail doesn’t help as much as Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, would have you think. Whatever clearance Presidents get under the Atomic Energy Act (especially since presidents don’t get clearance; on Bluesky, Cheryl Rofer suggests he may have gotten DOE clearance while still a candidate) obliges them to follow document handling rules that might not have been as meticulously spelled out for Trump under his access to other classified documents. That he still had access when he was found with nuclear documents in August 2022 only means he was affirmatively violating the terms of his Q clearance, not that he could legally store nuclear documents in his gaudy bathroom.

Most people who get charged under the Espionage Act have or had clearances; those clearances actually make it easier to prosecute them.

Though Trump finally added someone appropriate to an Espionage Act trial last month, former SDNY National Security AUSA  Emil Bove, Blanche still seems to have a woefully inadequate understanding of how 18 USC 793 elements of the offense get proven at trial.

And Jay Bratt seems to be unable to conceive that his counterparts (and, probably, Judge Cannon) fail to understand that.

Bratt’s attempt to explain all this — something that makes a lot of sense to me from covering so many of these trials — was just one of two times where (in the transcript at least) Cannon abruptly cut off Bratt, as she often does when she risks embarrassment.

BRATT: I do not — we do not believe that the motion to compel litigation needs to be complete before they can file with the Court their theory of defense with respect to the 793 charges, and it kind of strains credulity that they say they can’t do that. You know, the elements of 793 are unauthorized possession of a document containing national defense information, possessing it willfully, that is with knowledge that what you are doing is unlawful, and failing to return it to a proper person. All that information they can flesh that out for the Court, and there is really — they may have legal — separate legal challenges to the 793 charges, but if you look at the elements, those are the defenses: Either he didn’t possess it, or he was authorized to possess it, or the information doesn’t contain national defense information, or he wasn’t acting willfully, or he returned it before he was being asked to return it. Those are the defenses, and they may have other color they want —

THE COURT: But to some extent, of course, one would have to review the relevant classified discovery in order to formulate a meaningful response, even if maybe not entirely complete, it would be difficult to just sketch out a skeleton, so to speak, of your theory without really doing so rooted in the documents themselves.

MR. BRATT: So I’m not sure that you do need to be able to say, no, we know this doesn’t contain NDI for the Court to rule on whether or not what we are presenting in Section 4 is relevant and helpful to the Defense, I don’t think so. I understand that, you know, they have said in their pleadings that they are going to strongly contest whether or not the information was national defense information, strongly contest whether it was closely held. Our burden is to prove that it was, and we embrace that burden; but these documents, you know, I —

THE COURT: That’s fine. We don’t need to talk about the actual contents of the documents, obviously, given this is a public hearing.

Blanche was pretty obsessed with the classification determinations, marveling over the fact that prosecutors had to talk to the Intelligence Community before deciding what documents to charge, what documents they could charge.

We have seen communications between NARA and the Department of Justice and the White House and the Special Counsel that started way before what has been publicly disclosed and extensive meetings, extensive communications; and so we feel very strongly and expect that we will win on that, when we file the motion that NARA is absolutely part of this prosecution team and that the intelligence communities that they worked very closely with in determining the — well, from what we can tell, the particular documents that they chose to charge, so there is purportedly a tranche of documents that have classified headings on them, and then 32 that they decided to charge. That wasn’t just done in a vacuum. They didn’t just, you know, pick 32 documents out of a hat and say, “We will go with these.” There was a lot of coordination that we can tell from the materials we do have with the intelligence community that ultimately led them to proceed the way they did.

So yes, we have an answer with them. They say very strongly that they view the prosecution team as being limited to the Special Counsel’s Office and the FBI, and we very strongly believe that’s wrong.

That may have been a cynical ploy to treat the IC as part of the prosecution team, which in turn may be an attempt at graymail.

Blanche also claimed that the defense had not yet received all the classification reviews for these documents, and had yet to receive Jencks production for people he imagines will sit on the stand and attest to the classification of each document, in a trial where the standard is National Defense Authorization, not classification.

THE COURT: What about classification reviews, have you received all of those?

MR. BLANCHE: No, Your Honor, we have not received all of them. That is one of the things that we are continuing to ask about. We have received them for — I believe for the charge documents; but as what should be obvious from the volume compared to the 32 counts, there is a tremendous number of documents that are extraordinarily important to our defense that are purportedly classified that we don’t have any information about at this time.


A little bit about the classified Jencks material, as was discussed. The issue of whether a particular document is classified or not is something for the jury. And what we are looking for in discovery and what we don’t have is that has to be from a witness. There has to be a witness that is testifying about why a particular document is classified; and as part of that, like any witness, we are entitled to 3500 and Jencks material and we don’t have that. We don’t have that for all the witnesses, and our concern is that there is this class or category of Giglio and Jencks material that we are going to get at some later date which we are then going to — it’s another Section 4 litigation, at that point, because we are going to then ask the Court what we can use to impeach the witness, what information we are allowed to cross-examine him or her on.

Bratt did correct Blanche to say that Trump had already gotten all the classification determinations for all the classified documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago.

THE COURT: Now, I went through some of these categories with Mr. Blanche, but classification reviews, are those included in the 5,500 and/or the disks?

MR. BRATT: Yes. And just to respond to something Mr. Blanche said, and it may have been oversight, it is not just for the 32 documents. It is for all 340-some documents that were at Mar-A-Lago.

But I just think that Blanche doesn’t get how easy it’ll be to convince jurors that you can’t put nuclear documents in a beach resort shower (and that’s all before the smoke and mirrors that the government uses in all Espionage Act trials, which will be epically contentious here).

I don’t think he understands any of this.

This all brings me to something I’ve been wondering: what the government has been withholding anticipating its CIPA 4 filing, which has been delayed by various Trump games about CIPA. CIPA 4 covers stuff they’ll share with Judge Cannon to have her rule whether the material needs to be turned over to the defense (the standard is whether the material is relevant and helpful to the defense), and if so, whether DOJ can use substitutions for some of the information.

This is my updated track of the universe of classified discovery.

Pretty much everything that should obviously be there is there:

  • The stolen documents themselves
  • All the witness testimony about the documents
  • The discussions about classification reviews of the documents (which Brian Greer has suggested were likely somewhat limited in anticipation of trial)

But there’s one thing not mentioned — at least not obviously — that always proves contentious in 793 cases: The damage assessment.

One way defendants always attempt to prove that things aren’t National Defense Information is by pointing to a report — if they get one — that nothing blew up after they released a document or left it in their beach resort shower.

Often defendants don’t get them.

I’m particularly interested in what kind of damage assessment the Intelligence Community did here because of a footnote included in the 11th Circuit appeal last year, which I wrote about here:

footnote modifying a discussion about the damage assessment the Intelligence Community is currently doing referenced a letter then-NSA Director Mike Rogers wrote in support of Nghia Pho’s sentencing in 2018. [This letter remains sealed in the docket but Josh Gerstein liberated it at the time.]

[I]n order to assess the full scope of potential harms to national security resulting from the improper retention of the classified records, the government must assess the likelihood that improperly stored classified information may have been accessed by others and compromised. 4

4 Departments and agencies in the IC would then consider this information to determine whether they need to treat certain sources and methods as compromised. See, e.g., Exhibit A to Sentencing Memorandum, United States v. Pho, No. 1:17-cr-631 (D. Md. Sept. 18, 2018), D.E. 20-1 (letter from Adm. Michael S. Rogers, Director, National Security Agency) (“Once the government loses positive control over classified material, the government must often treat the material as compromised and take remedial actions as dictated by the particular circumstances.”).

Even on its face, the comment suggests the possibility that the Intelligence Community is shutting down collection programs because Trump took documents home.

You can’t very well do nothing after you learn some of the most sensitive government documents were parked on a stage in a room hosting weddings attended by all manner of foreigner and grifter. You can’t do nothing after learning that Trump freely blabbed about the content of his stolen documents to anyone who bought access to him. You can’t do nothing after a Five Eyes document gets dumped out of a box in a storage closet that musicians and other resort personnel have accessed. You’ve got to go to your Five Eyes allies and explain that America’s former President is a dumbass and so the allies should take measures assuming that some drunken guest got a look at that document.

You might not even be able to charge documents as sensitive as these if the underlying programs hadn’t had to be rolled up. The spooks are going to prefer to protect the programs over vengeance against the dumbass former President.

Which brings me to the most intriguing claim made at the hearing.

Stan Woodward — Walt Nauta’s attorney — claims that neither he nor the government have figured out where all the missing boxes have gone.

[T]he Special Counsel has directed us to certain portions of the CCTV footage that they view as the most relevant, but there is — from what we know and from our defense, there is a tremendous amount of CCTV footage that we believe has been produced that is not what they have identified that is extremely relevant to us. For example, to the extent that boxes were moved on occasions other than what is delineated in the indictment, that is certainly something that matters to us.


We have, of course, the benefit of consultation with our clients and are able to talk about what video we should be looking at and what video we should not be looking at. And the entire nature of the allegations, of the charges in this case are about missing boxes, right? The indictment is charging Mr. Nauta — and I’ll just stick with my client, with Mr. Nauta — with having moved boxes. Some number of boxes come out of a storage room, a lesser number of boxes go into the storage room, and Mr. Nauta is charged with hiding those boxes from whether it is Trump’s then counsel or whether it is the Government. And obviously, we are interested in knowing where those boxes are if they are, in fact, missing. The CCTV footage is what is going to help us understand that riddle.

Now, the Government does not know where those boxes went. As far as I can tell, to this day, the Government does not know where the boxes they allege were hidden ended up.


I have a whole separate computer that I’m using just to do these extractions so that I can go in and start watching this days of video so that we can make an assessment of what this case is all about and whether it is about missing boxes or about boxes that just weren’t found when the FBI conducted its search of the property.

Now, Woodward has a habit of saying things that I find … shall I say, unpersuasive?

This certainly feels like one of those instances, coming as it did amid a schtick whereby Woodward repeatedly referred to the government, then corrected himself to say Special Counsel, something that seems to mirror Judge Cannon’s own preferences for calling Jack Smith’s office the OSC (John Durham used this abbreviation but no one else does).

Woodward is attempting to claim that he needs to delay the trial past the election because he needs to review all of ten years worth of surveillance video to defend his client. I’ve seen him make similar claims in January 6 trials.

More importantly, this is not a remotely fair representation of the charges against Nauta, which have to do with Nauta claiming to know nothing about moving boxes within days of being caught on surveillance video moving boxes, then allegedly attempting to destroy the video that captured him moving those boxes. Importantly, even if someone else moved a bunch of boxes that aren’t otherwise included in the indictment, it doesn’t exonerate Nauta. It could even inculpate him: if boxes were at Mar-a-Lago for someone else to move because Nauta had taken steps to withhold them from the government, it means his alleged obstruction would have made those other movements possible.

Plus, one big reason why the government charged Nauta, I believe, is because they believe he knows what happened to the missing boxes, including the ones he packed up to go to Bedminster where they disappeared forever.

I don’t doubt that the government hasn’t accounted for all the missing boxes; certainly Bratt did not correct Woodward on this point.

But one reason the government would have had to get ten years of video is to attempt to see who else entered that closet, to see who was in the closet when a Five Eyes document tumbled out, to see whether any of the foreign visitors to Mar-a-Lago seemed to know to look in the closet.

That’s not something that would show up in the indictment, not without proof that Trump willfully told visitors where the documents were.

But if Woodward is telling the truth about needing to see who else was moving boxes around, rather than just using the volume of video to stall, it might suggest he’s trying to find out what you might otherwise learn from a damage assessment. It might suggest that either Nauta hasn’t been entirely forthcoming with Woodward or Trump isn’t being forthcoming with his lawyers or his trusted valet.

Learning what the government saw in the surveillance video about moving boxes is not remotely necessary for defending Nauta against the charges against him. It might have a lot to do with understanding how ugly the story prosecutors will tell at trial will be.

48 replies
  1. CaptainCondorcet says:

    In regards to that second to the last paragraph, I’m going with “two things can be true”. Trump almost certainly isn’t being transparent with his counsel (it’s happened before), and I’d bet Nauta is holding onto some info (again, likely at the request or “request” of his boss) that he isn’t sharing with Woodward. As bad as it all is, I think the worst part is that as Dr. Wheeler points out, even the prosecution doesn’t necessarily know how bad it all really was. How far down did all these lies go in this case?

  2. Boss Tweed says:

    Perhaps the point of taking the documents was to force the intelligence agencies to shut down those methods and sources. That in itself is very valuable gift to someone.

    • RipNoLonger says:

      Hmmm. That’s a George Smiley type of move but it would assume that someone (Nauta or the boss) would have some very intimate knowledge of what might work. Then again, I could see a bit of Pink Panthers in this escapade.

    • scroogemcduck says:

      That would be way too smart, and if true Trump could have avoided indictment by handing them back voluntarily. The programs still would have been shut down.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      As Marcy said, in this case, it may not matter and may make it easier to convict Trump, for not handling the information properly. That’s because every clearance comes with rules about how to handle the information you’ve been given access to, and Trump patently failed to comply with them.

  3. greenbird says:

    i’m not familiar with the hearing transcript. is there a link ? thanks.
    “transcript of last week’s hearing before Judge Aileen Cannon”

  4. morganism says:

    I seem to recall Marcy quoting some deposition/email about getting/replacing some more bankers boxes.
    Could they just have consolidated some damaged/spilling boxes?
    I seem to recall they discussed mis-markings and multiple markings in that convo?

    That doesn’t cover the note from a close female of trumps entourage telling Nuata? that there was no room on the plane to Bedminster for the boxes planned to be flown up there for the summer.
    Maybe they were driven, and diverted to storage?
    Has anyone checked Four Seasons Landscapings bathroom? HeHe…

    • soundgood2 says:

      From what I recollect, Nauta, I believe, said he needed to replace the tops of a few boxes because of how much was written on them.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        That sounds more like obstruction than ensuring that the lids close properly on the boxes containing govt information.

    • Narpington says:

      My recollection is that it was an instruction from Trump, having presumably written things he later regretted while sorting the boxes under pressure from the official archives to return them, doubtless something more incriminating than “I hate Hillary”.

      I understood that there wasn’t space on the plane for *all* the boxes, but there was space for some.

      “Better check Bedminster”: Video shows Trump boarding plane with boxes after feds asked for docs

      I don’t know if that’s the same trip.

  5. Joeff53 says:

    I do recall when Cravath represented IBM in that huge antitrust case in the 70s that its senior litigation partner personally examined every document—NOT! This is why we have associates and paralegals, and soon AI, to do this drudge work.

    • person1597 says:

      Ahh, the late 70’s… When Ibm opened the kimono, the world changed.

      AI could be similarly disruptive to proprietary ecosystems when learned machines perform more reliably than their humble human counterparts.

      Got a ways to go…but progress is progressing.

    • P J Evans says:

      AI can’t make value judgements like humans can. It can’t see implications and insinuations, either. Remember, it’s a machine and does exactly what it was programmed to do – there’s no creativity or initiative in it..

      • dar_5678 says:

        AIs are not programmed. They are trained.

        They *very often* produce results that are unexpected by their handlers. They are capable of detecting (but not understanding) anomalous patterns, including shades of meaning and intent.

        They also hallucinate.

        Don’t underestimate AIs. They are at least as credible as someone capable of receiving votes from 49% of the US population. And if the narrative is strong enough, the faith will follow. At that point, correctness does not matter.

        • Rayne says:

          AI is not “trained.” AI draws on a base of material and performs actions as programmed — yes, programmed. It’s coding which in essence tells a computer to [draw from source X] then [generate Y]. Training suggests independent ability to learn and AI doesn’t learn, it performs functions and repeats those functions with programmed modifications until its programmer(s) or user(s) are satisfied with the output.

          AI also doesn’t “hallucinate” which suggests an independent mind expressing perception of the unreal. AI produces flawed output which humans perceive as out of touch with reality; the output is flawed either because the source material is flawed or the programming is flawed.

          Don’t underestimate humans willingness to anthropomorphize a program which allows programmers and creators of source material off the hook when AI output hurts humans, ex. racist outcomes from AI which is based on racist programming and racist source material.

          Don’t underestimate humans willingness to let “the faith” off the hook as well because “they were just following orders” from AI. Start holding them accountable right the fuck now for their human failures of ethics and values.

  6. P J Evans says:

    10 years? That’s well before the former guy had access to those docs. 6 years, now…that I could see – but I’d bet there’s no video that far back.

  7. David F. Snyder says:

    OT: scholar Jonathan Turley has an opinion piece in The Hill claiming that Smith’s legal strategy for the Jan6 case is based on a “Siren’s call” strategy.
    But Turley ignores the fact that Trump did nothing for hours while the Capitol was under attack and did so without any advice from his lawyers.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. THIRD REQUEST: Please use the same username and email address each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This comment was published as “David Snyder” which is a different identity from “David F. Snyder,” your correct username. I am editing this once to match your correct username but future comments may not clear moderation if your username does not match. /~Rayne]

      • Bay State Librul says:

        Turley must have eaten “lotus flowers” before embarking on his wacko criminal strategy journey.
        Turley must be jockeying for a position as Attorney General in Trump’s cabinet.?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Turley operates with the same good faith as the other lawyers defending Trump.

        And if Stan Woodward knew where the missing, apparently Bedminster-bound boxes of govt documents ended up, he sure as hell wouldn’t admit or disclose it.

    • scroogemcduck says:

      Turley is full of shit. Trump might be tempted to try an “advice of Counsel” defence as a delay tactic, but to do so he will need to waive attorney client privilege. I don’t think even Trump is dumb enough to waive privilege but who knows?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Turley’s piece, in the Hill, naturally, is propaganda. It’s also a classic case of begging the question. His argument assumes what he says he’s trying to prove: that Trump relied on legal advice that Turley now admits is generally regarded as bad.

      But Trump didn’t rely on the sober legal advice he was given by White House Counsel and DoJ lawyers, whose job it was to give it to him. He didn’t rely on the results of three score cases that went against him. He sought out advice from drunk, whacked out, and parking lot lawyers, who would tell him what he wanted to hear. That’s not reasonable reliance on advice of counsel. It’s another Trump fraud, and it would be a sham defense.

  8. Maureen A Donnelly says:

    Thanks for circling back to the missing boxes. I don’t understand why this aspect of the documents case has not been explored and why more people are not talking about the boxes that left Florida, never to return. I am horrified but not surprised by the sloth of the response on the part of the government in this case (e.g. compared to Ms. Winner). Rules are rules and all, but they hit different for folks like Mr. Trump. Grateful for your eagle eyes and disciplined brain for keeping the rest of us informed. Sláinte.

    • David F. Snyder says:

      To be fair, depending on the contents of the boxes which were guarded secrets (surely deduced by now), the government may need to keep mum about them, at least for now. I can’t imagine the five eyes not having great interest in finding what was in those boxes and who was given access to them. So we don’t know but that doesn’t mean it isn’t either known or being investigated. Since this is Trump, I assume the worst: secrets were sold.

      We can edit again! Thanks, tech crew!!

      • Eschscholzia says:

        This may be the first time ever I’ve been less cynical or negative than Mo! But I’ll state it stronger than David did: Tracking the fate of those boxes would be done by the intelligence community, along with the damage assessment. While CIA and NSA might not be allowed to investigate domestically, FBI/DOJ is not the only agency who can investigate when the reason for the investigation is not further prosecution.

        We would never know of such an effort or the results: there is no reason for them to make any results public, and very little might be shared with DOJ and the court.

        What I don’t know is to what extent Trump & co can graymail the DOJ for information the DOJ has not seen, about (non-goldilocks) documents that are not charged. That may not have clear case law, but I suspect several lawyers here have pretty good ideas of where that line might be.

        And, I don’t know how much the House can demand briefings or information on the damage assessment and fate of those boxes from the intelligence community.

  9. Zirczirc says:

    While I understand the counter-intelligence (and political) value of learning what was in the documents Trump absconded with, I can’t understand the legal value. That is to say that in terms of Trump or Nauta’s guilt or innocence what matters is not what was classified in the documents and what happened to the documents they can’t find but THAT the documents were classified. Once it’s established that the documents were classified and that they were not where they were supposed to be, shouldn’t the legal focus be on what rules and laws may have been broken and whether Trump or Nauta broke those laws? I suppose that if a guilty verdict were reached the amount of damage done to the United States could figure into the punishment phase, but unless someone is making the argument that the documents weren’t classified at all (and I think we can dispense with the “I declassified them in my mind” defense), the contents of the documents are secondary at most.

    I’m sure I’m missing something and someone on this page will be glad to correct me, but the classification level of a document already gives you a crude damage assessment: Confidential equals damage to the US; Secret equals serious damage to the US; Top Secret equals exceptionally grave damage to the US.

    • scroogemcduck says:

      Marcy refers to greymail in the post. Trump’s attorneys will want to enter every piece of classified info into evidence. If Cannon facilitates this, the Government may have to drop some of the charges to prevent it from happening. If it is submitted into evidence, Trump’s attorneys will claim it was never sensitive in the first place, as the Government is now content for it to be disclosed as evidence. Likely the more important consideration is how much opportunity this gives them to delay.

    • xyxyxyxy says:

      I don’t understand why we’re so concerned about classification . He stole defense documents and that’s the crime. End of story.

      • EuroTark says:

        Correct. The charges are about National Defense Information (NDI) and talking about classification is the misdirection the defense wants. This is also likely why one of the charged documents isn’t classified; it was compiled unofficially by the defendent (or associates).

  10. Zinsky123 says:

    I hope Trump and his attorneys are made to account for every confidential document that was removed without authorization, when Trump left the White House.

  11. Desidero says:

    A bit different angle, I’m curious how recent AI/data science developments improve government’s ability to analyze those 10 years more efficiently and insightfully.

    • Rayne says:

      Should we want AI to analyze this unless it’s AI created and under control of intelligence agency, with access and use limited to agency analysis purposes?

      Think more broadly about AI whenever you think of a possible use — what’s the downside if that genie gets out of the bottle? What does blowback look like, including analysis discredited in the courtroom because the black box can’t be opened in public?

    • Ithaqua0 says:

      As someone who has done some work in this field, I can assure you that using recent AI (large language models particularly) to analyze anything of any importance to anyone would be a disaster. AI makes stuff up, lies about it, manufactures statements and sources to justify its lies, etc., because it does not understand the concept of “truth,” or anything else except word patterns. *Everything* it tells you is made up; sometimes it happens to be true, sometimes not. You simply cannot trust it to do anything more complex than give you a recipe for chicken soup, and even then, you should look it over first.

      • canajan-eh_I says:

        I disagree that a large language model (LLM) “makes stuff up, lies about it, manufactures statements and sources to justify its lies”. That ascribes far more agency than current LLMs possess. I do agree that all LLMs can do is apply statistics to whatever large data base of text they have been provided. Your chicken soup recipe will be the most probable sequence of words that follow “chicken soup recipe” in the data base.

        • EuroTark says:

          Completely agree. The current language models cannot lie, because they do not have a concept of truth or facts.

          One of the best explanations of what they are and can do is this ArsTechnica article which is quite understandable for technical-oriented people.

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