According to two sources familiar with the situation who spoke to CNN, the Department of Justice is planning to ask a federal judge to hold former President Donald Trump in contempt of court for failing to comply with a subpoena that was issued this summer ordering the former president to turn over records that were marked classified.
Following the disclosure by Trump’s legal team that it had conducted searches at four locations right before Thanksgiving, this new information has come to light. The searches led to the discovery of two documents with classified markings at a storage facility in Florida. The Trump campaign handed over those two documents to the FBI and informed a federal judge in Washington, DC, that they believed their candidate was now in compliance with a subpoena that had been in effect for the previous six months.
However, the Justice Department did not concur. In addition, department prosecutors expressed their dissatisfaction with the searches to the District Chief Judge of the District of Columbia, Beryl Howell, who presides over the federal grand jury proceedings in that location, last week. The contempt proceedings that are now being heard by Howell are confidential.
The proceedings intensify the pressure that is being placed on President Trump, who is being investigated for possible criminal culpability in connection with the documents related to Mar-a-Lago by special counsel Jack Smith. It also adds another chapter to the ongoing struggle that federal officials have been having to reclaim government records from Trump after his administration has ended, particularly those records that contain secrets related to the nation’s security.
“Despite the unprecedented, illegal, and unjustifiable attacks by the militarized Department of Justice,” President Trump and his legal team “continue to cooperate and be honest,” according to a statement released by a representative for the Trump administration named Steven Cheung.
Boxes and an envelope containing government records, some of which were classified, were handed over to the special counsel by the Trump team in January and June respectively. The federal agencies that were seeking their return had been doing so for several months before the month of May when the Justice Department issued a subpoena that asked for classified documents.
Even after the subpoena was issued, investigators found a justification to search Mar-a-Lago. During the search, they were able to seize an additional 33 boxes of data, among which were more than 100 documents tagged as classified. Prosecutors have claimed, more recently, that important government records are still missing and that Trump is compelled to return them if he took possession of them.
According to one source, the Justice Department has not disclosed to Trump’s legal team whose materials it believes have not been returned. The Justice Department believes that these files were not returned.
On Friday, Judge Howell will convene a hearing to determine whether or not it is appropriate to hold President Trump and his post-presidential office in contempt of court. If he were found in contempt of court, he might have to pay fines. Since leaving office, Donald Trump has been embroiled in several legal battles, several of which have involved him being found in contempt of court for failing to comply with subpoenas for information.
According to a source who is familiar with the former president’s defense strategy, the legal team representing Donald Trump is planning to argue at the hearing on Friday that the recent searches for classified material at the four locations, including Trump Tower, were all thorough and should prove that he complied with the subpoena. This is according to the information provided by the source.
According to the source, investigators hired by the Trump team checked the places, and in the majority of the cases, they did not uncover any relevant objects. According to this source, when investigating the case of the storage facility where two documents that were tagged as classified were discovered, investigators came across unopened boxes that needed to be opened with a knife. According to the information provided by the source, the condition of the boxes suggested that they had not been opened since Trump left office.
The insider also stated that the Trump team’s outsourced search had the intention of preventing federal prosecutors from obtaining another search warrant for the former president’s other properties. This was done in part to preemptively thwart the prosecutors’ plans.
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