Feds expand investigation into Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified records in obstruction of justice committee

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The Justice Department is expanding a criminal case against Donald Trump that alleges the former president obstructed a grand jury investigation by failing to turn over classified national security documents found in his office and a storage unit at his Palm Beach home that were later found by during an FBI investigation this month, according to a new court filing.

Prosecutors said Trump and his lawyers failed to comply with a subpoena in May after a representative for the former president swore in an affidavit that they had conducted a “thorough search” of dozens of boxes removed from the White House in his Marco. a-Small estate after leaving office. The custodian of Trump’s records claimed the former president had returned all “responsive documents” to a Washington, D.C. federal grand jury subpoena in June, which prosecutors said was untrue in their filing.

New details of the federal investigation into the removal of hundreds of classified materials from the White House were revealed in a Justice Department filing late Tuesday in which prosecutors objected to its request for a special master to review potentially privileged executive and attorney-client documents that may to be part of the trove of records that FBI agents hauled away from his Mar-a-Lago estate on August 8.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon, who was nominated by Trump to the federal court in South Florida, has already indicated her “preliminary intention” to grant his lawyers’ request for a special master and plans to hold a hearing on the sensitive issue on Thursday in federal court in West Palm Beach.

Federal prosecutors in Miami and Washington objected to the 36-page filing with 18 pages of exhibits, saying there is no legal basis for appointing a special master — including that Trump has “no right” to make such a request because presidential , government and classified documents he carried home all belong to the National Archives and Records Administration. In addition, they claimed there is a “limited subset” of potentially privileged documents that had already been set aside by “filter” teams with the FBI who are not part of the investigative team investigating Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified files.

But prosecutors made much more than legal arguments in their filing, arguing that Trump and his legal team defied initial requests from the US government and a grand jury subpoena in May to turn over all of his records at Mar-a-Lago. They noted that several “sensitive” classified files were found in the 45th president’s office and in a storage area at his Palm Beach home during the FBI’s search earlier this month.

“Despite [Trump] attorney’s representation on June 3, 2022, that materials from the White House were only in the Warehouse [at Mar-a-Lago]classified documents were found both in the Warehouse and in the former President’s office,” the prosecution says.

“Additionally, the investigation cast serious doubt on the assertion in the certification … that a ‘diligent search’ had been made for records responsive to the grand jury subpoena,” the filing noted.

During the Aug. 8 search of Trump’s home, FBI agents seized 33 boxes, containers or other evidence containing more than 100 classified files, including “classified information at the highest levels.” In the warehouse alone, FBI agents found 76 documents bearing “distinctive markings.” But in addition, three classified documents located in the offices of the president’s office were also seized, according to the filing.

“The fact that the FBI, within hours, discovered twice as many redacted documents than the ‘diligent investigation’ that the former President’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to conduct casts serious doubt on the statements made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter,” prosecutors said in their filing.

Boxes of documents

In response to the grand jury subpoena, Trump and his lawyers turned over the following: “38 unique classified documents, including 5 documents marked CONFIDENTIAL, 16 documents marked CONFIDENTIAL and 17 documents marked TOP SECRET,” according to the prosecutorial statement.

Prosecutors further said that the former president and his lawyers “have offered no explanation as to why boxes of government records, including 38 classified documents, remained. [Mar-a-Lago] nearly five months” after they initially handed over 15 boxes of classified documents to the National Archives in January, following months of inquiries for their return.

The widening criminal investigation into Trump took a dramatic turn on August 5, when FBI agents were granted permission by a federal judge to search his home after finding that the former president had illegally removed 184 classified documents from the White House and stored them in ” unauthorized”. » is placed at his residence in Palm Beach. Many of the classified documents related to “national defense information,” according to a redacted affidavit released last week.

Trump himself had voluntarily turned over those classified documents — mixed with magazines, newspapers, photographs, letters, notes and other material — in the 15 boxes sent to the National Archives in January, after the federal agency responsible for keeping presidential and government documents requested the former president returned his files to Washington.

The discovery of those classified documents — including 67 marked “CONFIDENTIAL,” 92 as “CONFIDENTIAL” and 25 as “TOP SECRET” — formed the body of evidence the Justice Department cited in the FBI search warrant approved by the judge . three days before the FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. “The government is conducting a criminal investigation into the improper removal and storage of classified information in unauthorized locations, as well as the illegal concealment or removal of government records,” an unidentified FBI agent wrote in the 32-page affidavit supporting the bureau’s search warrant. .

“Furthermore, there is probable cause to believe that additional documents contained classified NDI [national defense information] or that presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at Trump’s residence, the agent wrote in the affidavit, noting that he has received training in counterintelligence and espionage investigations. “There is also probable cause to believe evidence of obstruction will be found” in his home.

The FBI agent noted that the investigation began as a result of a “referral” from the United States National Archives and Records Administration to the Department of Justice on February 9. That subpoena, along with material found in May when agents examined the 15 boxes Trump had returned as well as information from multiple witnesses, led to the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8.

Trump, who claims he had declassified all of those sensitive documents before leaving office, has accused the FBI and Justice Department of conducting what he described as another “witch hunt” against him. The FBI search warrant, previously released by Judge Reinhart after news organizations asked him to unseal it, said the Justice Department is building a possible criminal case against Trump based on allegations of illegally removing classified material, committing acts of espionage and obstruction. justice, including the destruction of records.

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