Unsealed court documents offer new insight into Trump's classified documents investigation

Washington – A trove of newly unsealed documents related to the federal investigation into former President Donald Trump's handling of classified information sheds light on the secret grand jury investigation that preceded the indictments against him and the sealed proceedings that have taken place since he was inaugurated indicted.

The documents confirmed Tuesday that federal agents suspected the former president may have tried to obstruct the investigation in ways not previously acknowledged by prosecutors and that documents with classified markings were recovered from Trump's Florida bedroom in the months after the FBI Mar-a-Lago Resort. They also revealed a once-confidential legal battle between lawyers who alleged misconduct in the investigation and a Justice Department that backed the probe.

Special counsel Jack Smith has charged the former president with 40 federal charges related to his alleged unlawful retention of national defense information — documents with classified marks covering topics ranging from nuclear capabilities to military policy — and obstruction of the federal investigation into his handling of sensitive information. government records. Trump and his co-defendants, aide Walt Nauta and former employee Carlos de Oliveira, all pleaded not guilty, and the former president has criticized the investigation.

The 2023 federal indictment against Trump alleged that he tried to obstruct investigators by making false statements to his lawyers. Prosecutors also said Nauta and de Oliveira were allegedly involved in a failed scheme to get a Mar-a-Lago IT worker to delete the security camera footage.

But in a 2023 legal opinion released Tuesday, former Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the federal district court in Washington, D.C., wrote that it was “likely” that Trump had gone beyond allegedly misleading his lawyers, by possibly “tampering his agents to wear the surveillance cameras that he then believed had been replaced by the government.”

Howell described numerous examples in which the former president, his lawyers and his aides responded to federal requests for information about documents with classified markings from Trump's time in the White House at his Florida resort after his presidency ended.

In June 2022, a Washington, D.C., grand jury subpoenaed security camera footage at Mar-a-Lago, information that was later relayed to Trump over the phone by his then-attorney, Evan Corcoran.

“The government alleges that this conversation furthered another phase of the former President's ongoing plan to thwart the government's efforts to retrieve all classified documents related to the subpoena,” the judge wrote.

Shortly after Trump's phone call with Corcoran about the subpoena, according to the judge, an unnamed witness, whose behavior mirrored that of Nauta, “rearranged his itinerary and chose to fly to Florida on June 25, 2022 instead of Illinois with the former president. as previously planned.”

According to the judge's reporting, prosecutors suspected that the change in Nauta's travel was part of Trump's “efforts to ensure that any subsequent movement of the boxes back to the storage area could occur off-camera.”

“The government has presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the June 24, 2022, phone call may have furthered the former President's efforts to obstruct the government's investigation,” Howell wrote.

The judge's widely publicized opinion in 2023 was a major turning point in the special counsel's investigation into Trump's conduct, when she took the relatively unusual step of breaking attorney-client privilege by forcing Corcoran to face a grand jury testify about his interaction with Trump. It was released publicly for the first time on Tuesday and confirmed much of what was previously reported.

Although the standard of proof in the grand jury proceedings for prosecutors was much lower than that of a jury trial, Howell wrote that because Trump may have used his attorney in furtherance of an alleged crime, the privilege between him and Corcoran could not apply.

At the time, CBS News reported that Howell also ruled that prosecutors could use voice memos and notes from Corcoran's time as the former president's attorney, despite challenges under the same attorney-client privilege.

In February, Trump's legal team asked the federal judge overseeing the criminal case, Aileen Cannon, to dismiss the charges and suppress evidence in part based on what they said was an incorrect decision by Howell. That motion to dismiss was also unsealed on Tuesday, after Cannon ordered much of the file unsealed with redactions.

Cannon has yet to decide whether to honor some of Trump's efforts to dismiss the charges. A trial was scheduled to begin this month, but Cannon postponed its start indefinitely, citing issues surrounding the preliminary investigation and the use of secret evidence in proceedings.

Howell's 2023 opinion also detailed searches by Trump's lawyers conducted after August 2022, when the FBI conducted its court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago, for additional documents that may have been covered by a grand jury subpoena for documents with classification marks issued in May 2022.

In 2022, CBS News reported that Trump's lawyers turned over to investigators other documents they recovered after hiring an outside firm to search all of Trump's assets for classified documents.

In November of that year, two documents were discovered in a box in a West Palm Beach, Florida, storage unit that was rented by the General Services Administration, according to the filing.

In mid-December 2022, a box containing four more records with classification marks was discovered in a closet at Mar-a-Lago, Howell wrote, citing reports attached to a certificate of compliance filed by Trump's office after the presidency. Those documents were part of a response to the May 2022 grand jury subpoena and “contain classified-level markings,” the court said.

Trump's office turned over the entire box containing the four documents to the FBI on January 5, 2023, as well as two additional documents that should have been turned over after the May 2022 subpoena: “an empty folder and another mostly empty folder marked 'Classified Evening Summary,” which Howell said were found in Trump's bedroom at Mar-a-Lago.

“Notably, no excuse is given for how the former president might have missed the confidential documents he found in his own bedroom at Mar-a-Lago,” the judge wrote.

One of those attorneys, former Trump defense team member Timothy Parlatore, later participated in a grand jury interview to confirm the search.

That grand jury statement was also the subject of allegations by the former president of prosecutorial misconduct. Part of the interview was also released Tuesday, in which a prosecutor from Smith's team questioned Parlatore about his attorney-client privilege with his client, Trump.

“If the former president is so cooperative, why did he not allow you to share his conversations with the Grand Jury today,” the prosecutor asked, according to the transcript page released Tuesday.

“Are we really doing this,” Parlatore replied.

That transcript was unsealed as part of an exhibit accompanying a Trump legal team filing accusing Smith's team of prosecutorial misconduct. The former president filed the motion under seal in February and Cannon released it publicly on Tuesday.

In the Submission February, Trump's team alleged that the Justice Department improperly worked with the National Archives and the Biden White House to bring the indictment, and later “abused the grand jury process.” The allegations, made outside of public view, amounted to what Trump's lawyers said were grounds for dismissal.

However, Smith's team defended their behavior and rejected Trump's allegations. writing in March“This matter was investigated and prosecuted in full compliance with all applicable constitutional provisions, statutes, rules, regulations and policies.”

“There was no prosecutorial misconduct.”

The documents were unsealed just as Nauta was scheduled to appear in Cannon's courtroom Wednesday. He has alleged that the Justice Department engaged in selective prosecution by filing the charges against him because he chose not to cooperate with the investigation. Smith's team has pushed back against this claim and Cannon will hear arguments from both sides.

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