Trump and his aides allegedly conducted a “dress rehearsal” of moving sensitive documents before receiving the May 2022 subpoena, according to people familiar with the matter.
Prosecutors have gathered evidence that Trump sometimes kept classified documents in plain sight and sometimes showed them to others.
Taken together, the new details of the declassified documents investigation suggest greater breadth and specificity to the cases of potential obstruction identified by the FBI and Justice Department than previously reported. That expands the timeline of potential disturbance episodes that investigators are examining — stretching from the events at Mar-a-Lago before the subpoena. After an FBI raid on August 8.
That timeline could prove critical as prosecutors seek to determine Trump’s intent in keeping hundreds of classified documents after he leaves the White House. The Washington Post previously reported that the boxes were moved out of storage after Trump’s office received a subpoena. But the precise timing of that activity is a significant aspect of the investigation, people familiar with the matter said.
Grand jury activity in the case has slowed in recent weeks, and Trump’s lawyers have taken steps — including outlining his potential defense to members of Congress and seeking a meeting with the attorney general — They believe that the end of charging is near. After months of frantic proceedings in federal court in Washington, the grand jury tasked with the trial has not met since May 5. It was the panel’s longest hiatus since December, when Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith as special counsel to lead the investigation and coincided with the year-end vacation.
Trump has denied wrongdoing in each case. “This is nothing more than a targeted, politically motivated witch hunt against President Trump designed to interfere with the election and prevent the American people from returning him to the White House,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung wrote in a statement. “Like all the other hoaxes thrown at President Trump, this corruption attempt will fail.”
Cheung accused prosecutors of “disregarding public decency or the core rules governing the legal system,” and he said investigators “harassed anyone and everyone who worked.” [for]has worked [for]Or support Donald Trump.
“During the negotiations regarding the return of the documents, President Trump told the top DOJ official, ‘Let us know anything you need from us,'” he continued. “That the DOJ denied this cooperation and conducted a raid on Mar-a-Lago demonstrates that the Biden regime has weaponized the DOJ and the FBI.”
A spokesman for Smith declined to comment. Justice Department officials previously said they conducted the search after months of unsuccessful efforts to retrieve all classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.
Of particular importance to investigators in the classified documents case, people familiar with the investigation said, was evidence that boxes of documents were moved to a storage area on June 2, before Senior Justice Attorney Jay Pratt arrived in Mar-a. – Lagos with agents. June 3 visit of law enforcement officials Response material should be collected by May 2022 Grand jury to demand return of all documents with classified identifications.
Attorney John Irving, who represents one of the two employees who moved the boxes, said the worker did not know what was in them and was only trying to help Trump valet Walt Nauta move the lot using a dolly or hand truck. boxes.
“On June 2, 2022, Mar-a-Lago security video showed him helping Walt Nauta move boxes to a storage area. My client saw Mr. Nauta moving the boxes and volunteered to help him,” Irving said. The next day, the employee helped Nauta pack an SUV “when former President Trump went to Bedminster for the summer.”
The attorney said his client, a longtime Mar-a-Lago employee who he declined to identify, had cooperated with the government and had “no reason to think helping move the boxes was significant.” Others familiar with the investigation confirmed the employee’s role and said he was questioned several times by authorities.
Irving is representing several witnesses in the trial, and his law firm is being paid by Trump’s Save America PAC, disclosure reports show. Nauta’s attorney, Stanley Brandt, declined to comment.
Investigators have sought to gather evidence that Trump or people close to him deliberately withheld classified documents from the government.
On the evening of June 2, the same day the two employees moved the boxes, Trump’s lawyer contacted the Justice Department and said officials were welcome to visit Mar-a-Lago and pick up classified documents related to the subpoena. Brad and FBI agents arrived the next day.
Trump’s lawyers gave authorities a sealed envelope containing 38 classified documents and a signed certification that a “substantial search” had been conducted for the documents requested by the subpoena and that all relevant documents had been returned.
As part of that visit, Pratt and agents were invited to tour a storage room where Trump aides said boxes of documents from his presidency were kept. Court documents filed by the Justice Department state that Trump’s lawyers told visitors that none of the boxes in the storage room could be opened or their contents viewed.
When FBI agents got a court order to search Mar-a-Lago two months later, they found more than 100 people. Secret documents, some in Trump’s office and some in storage.
In an August court filing explaining the search, prosecutors produced evidence of “obstructive conduct” in response to the subpoena, writing that the documents “may have been hidden and removed from a storage room.”
Even before Trump’s office received the subpoena in May, prosecutors have also gathered evidence of what some officials called a “dress rehearsal” to move government documents he didn’t want to give up, people familiar with the investigation said.
The term “dress rehearsal”. A sealed judicial opinion released earlier this year was used in one of several legal battles over the government’s access to specific witnesses and evidence, some of the people said. It was used to describe an episode in which Trump allegedly reviewed the contents of some, but not all, boxes containing classified material, these people said. The New York Times First reported Trump’s team held what was “apparently a dress rehearsal” before the subpoena arrived.
During that time, Trump and his legal team have engaged in a back-and-forth with the National Archives and Records Administration over whether he has taken White House records and assets that should remain with the government. That dispute over presidential records ultimately led to the discovery of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago — some of them highly sensitive, including information about a foreign country’s nuclear capabilities; Iran’s missile system; and intelligence gathering aimed at China.
The former president, familiar with the situation, told aides he wanted to make sure he kept the documents he considered his property.
Trump and the Mar-a-Lago Papers: A Chronology
That dress rehearsal episode is one of many instances in which investigators are looking for possible motives in the actions of Trump and those around him. However, Trump’s lawyers and some of those witnesses have argued in recent months that prosecutors view the sequence of events in a more suspicious light. Smith says the team has it Unreasonably claims that people are not trying to hide anything from the government, but are performing routine and innocent tasks in the service of their employer.
More than one witness has separately told prosecutors, familiar with the matter, that Trump sometimes keeps classified documents out in the open in his Florida office where others can see them. Sometimes he showed them to people, including assistants and visitors.
Depending on the strength of that evidence, such accounts could severely undermine claims by Trump or his lawyers that he did not know he was in possession of classified materials.
People familiar with the situation said Smith’s team has completed much of its investigative work in the documents case and that it has uncovered a few distinct episodes of prohibitive behavior.
One of the suspected cases of obstruction was Aug. People said that happened after an FBI search on 8 They did not provide further details, but the Guardian previously reported that in December, Trump’s lawyers found a box containing White House charts. Some of the classifieds at Mar-a-Lago. In that event, a junior assistant moved the box from the government leasing office in nearby West Palm Beach.