Unsealed court records offer new insight into Trump secret documents investigation

Washington – A newly unsealed set of 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 charges against him and sealed proceedings since his indictment.

Documents confirmed Tuesday that federal agents suspect Trump may have tried to obstruct the investigation in ways not previously acknowledged by prosecutors and that classified documents were recovered from Trump’s Florida bedroom months after the FBI searched his mar-a-a-law. Lago Resort. They also revealed a once-secret legal battle between defense attorneys who alleged investigative misconduct and the Justice Department’s standing in on its investigation.

Special counsel Jack Smith has filed 40 federal counts against the former president, accusing him of illegally possessing national security information — classified documents dealing with topics ranging from nuclear capabilities to military policy — and obstructing federal investigations into his handling of sensitive information. Government records. Trump and his co-defendants, aide Walt Nauta and former staffer Carlos de Oliveira, have all pleaded not guilty, and the former president has criticized the investigation.

In a 2023 federal indictment against Trump, he tried to thwart investigators by making false representations to his attorneys. Prosecutors said Nauta and De Oliveira were involved in a failed scheme to push a Mar-a-Lago IT employee to delete security camera footage.

But in a 2023 judicial opinion unsealed Tuesday, former chief judge Beryl Howell of the federal district court in Washington, D.C., wrote that Trump may have gone further than simply misleading his lawyers. He understood that the surveillance cameras were represented by the government.”

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

In June 2022, a Washington, DC grand jury subpoenaed the security camera footage at Mar-a-Lago, and the information was later relayed to Trump by phone through his then-lawyer Evan Corcoran.

“The government contends that this conversation promoted a different phase of the former president’s ongoing plan to thwart the government’s efforts to retrieve all classified documents responsive to the subpoena,” the judge wrote.

Shortly after Trump’s call with Corcoran about the subpoena, according to the judge, an unnamed witness, matching Nauta’s behavior, “chose to travel with the former president to Florida on June 25, 2022 instead of Illinois, rearranging his travel schedule. As previously planned.”

According to the judge’s account of events, prosecutors suspect Nauta’s travel change was part of Trump’s “effort to ensure that moving the boxes back to the storage room could happen 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 reported opinion in 2023 was a major turning point in the special counsel’s investigation into Trump’s conduct, as he punctured attorney-client privilege in a relatively unusual case by forcing Corcoran to testify before a grand jury about his contacts with Trump. It was released publicly for the first time on Tuesday, confirming much of what had previously been reported.

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

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

In February, Trump’s legal team asked Eileen Cannon, the federal judge overseeing the criminal case, to dismiss the indictment and partially suppress evidence based on what they argued was a wrong decision by Howell. That motion to dismiss was unsealed Tuesday, after Cannon ordered most of the records sealed with redactions.

Cannon has yet to rule on whether to grant some of Trump’s efforts to dismiss the indictment. A trial was set to begin this month, but Cannon postponed its start indefinitely, citing issues surrounding the use of classified evidence in pre-trial motions and proceedings.

Howell’s 2023 opinion detailed searches by Trump’s lawyers after August 2022, when the FBI conducted a court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago. May 2022.

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

In November of that year, two records were found in a box in a storage unit located in West Palm Beach, Florida, which was leased by the General Services Administration.

A box of four more records with classification markings was found in a closet at Mar-a-Lago in mid-December 2022, Howell wrote, referring to reports included in a certificate of compliance filed by Trump’s post-presidential office. Those documents are part of a response to a May 2022 grand jury subpoena and are “classified as classified,” according to the court filing.

On January 5, 2023, Trump’s office turned over the entire box of four documents to the FBI, as well as two additional documents that were supposed to be turned over after a May 2022 subpoena: “one blank folder and another marked as mostly blank. According to Howell, found in Trump’s bedroom at Mar-a-Lago ‘ Divided Wreath Summary’.

“Notably, no reason was offered as to how the former president could have missed the secret-coded documents found in his own bedroom at Mar-a-Lago,” the judge wrote.

One of those lawyers, former Trump defense team member Timothy Parladore, later sat for a grand jury interview to testify about the search.

That grand jury deposition implicated the former presidential attorney in allegations of misconduct. A portion of the interview was unsealed Tuesday in which an attorney on Smith’s team questioned Parladore about his attorney-client privilege with his client, Trump.

“If the former president was so cooperative, why didn’t he allow you to share his conversations with the grand jury today,” the attorney asked, according to the transcript’s page released Tuesday.

“Are we really doing this,” Parladore replied.

The unsealed transcript was part of an exhibit filed by Trump’s legal team alleging prosecutorial misconduct by Smith’s team. The former president filed the motions under seal in February, and Cannon released them in a public docket on Tuesday.

In February filing, Trump’s team accused the Justice Department of improperly working with the National Archives and the Biden White House to bring the indictment, then “misusing the grand jury process.” The allegations, which were made out of public view, were grounds for impeachment, Trump’s lawyers argued.

Smith’s team, however, defended their behavior and denied Trump’s accusations, I will write in March“This case was investigated and prosecuted in full compliance with all applicable constitutional provisions, laws, rules, regulations and policies.”

“There was no prosecutorial misconduct.”

The documents remain unsealed pending Nauta’s appearance in Cannon’s courtroom Wednesday. He alleged that the Justice Department framed charges against him and engaged in selective prosecutions as he did not cooperate with the investigation. Smith’s team has disputed that assertion and Cannon is set to hear arguments from both sides.

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