Court records reveal new details of alleged obstruction in Trump’s classified documents case

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Four months after an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, secret documents remained in his bedroom at Mar-a-Lago, according to a court ruling issued Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell’s decision also provided additional details of alleged obstruction efforts by Trump and his co-defendants, Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, through what the government described as a “shell game” of moving documents around Mar-a-Lago to avoid being discovered by federal authorities.

Howell concluded that prosecutors could question Trump’s lawyer, Evan Corcoran, because the former president was “likely” engaged in criminal activity.

Another court filing indicated that FBI agents had authorized the use of lethal force if necessary during the search.

The FBI claims this is typical, but in a social media post Tuesday, Trump described the potential use of force as a major threat to democracy.

On the same day that the most recent court records were unsealed, Trump requested U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that the search was illegal.

Cannon scheduled two hearings on Nauta’s motions to dismiss the case on Wednesday. Nauta, Trump’s personal valet, is accused with conspiring to conceal sensitive information from federal officials.

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The case is one of four ongoing criminal proceedings against Trump. The jury in his New York hush money trial is scheduled to hear closing arguments Tuesday.

However, Cannon has postponed the start of the classified papers trial indefinitely due to the complexity of the outstanding disagreements.

Judge ruled prosecutors could interview Trump lawyer because of possible crime

Trump faces 40 accusations, including keeping national defense documents and conspiring to conceal them from federal authorities, after FBI agents discovered more than 100 classified documents at Mar-a-Lago in August 2022.

Trump, co-defendants Nauta, and De Oliveira, Mar-a-Lago’s property manager, have all pled not guilty.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, who presided over the search disputes, decided in March 2023 that Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith could question Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran about the records, despite claims of attorney-client privilege based on suspected criminal behavior.

Howell’s decision stayed secret for more than a year. However, Trump cited it as part of his submission on Tuesday, seeking Cannon to dismiss the case, alleging that the search was unlawful. Cannon has not ruled on the motion yet.

More classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago 4 months after FBI search

According to Howell’s judgment, which was released on Tuesday, one of Trump’s lawyers informed federal officials in December 2022, four months after the FBI investigation, that four more classified materials totaling six pages were discovered in a cupboard at Mar-a-Lago.

When the records were turned over to the FBI in January 2023, the box contained two additional documents – an empty folder and a partly empty folder labeled “Classified Evening Summary” – discovered in Trump’s bedroom, according to the ruling.

Howell stated that the documents should have been turned over months ago under the subpoena.

“Remarkably, the report regarding the Mar-a-Lago search, conducted on December 15-16, 2023, uncovered four more responsive records,” wrote Howell. “To be clear, the four documents were responsive to the May 2022 subpoena.”

Trump accused of sharing classified documents with his PAC

A footnote in Howell’s opinion stated that a witness scanned the classified documents onto her laptop, which belonged to the Save America Political Action Committee, an organization Trump founded in 2020, before they were turned over in January 2023.

“The former president’s counsel saved those scans onto a thumb drive and provided the thumb drive to the government that day,” wrote Howell.

Sharing classified material with someone who does not hold a security clearance is a criminal. Howell’s conclusion did not explain what the documents were about or why Trump’s political crew would be interested in them.

Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman, stated that Smith’s case is “a feeble attempt to fool the American people.”

“The entire documents case was a political sham from the very beginning and it should be thrown out entirely,” Cheung stated.

Special counsel suspected additional efforts to obstruct investigation

Trump, Nauta, and Oliveira reportedly plotted to obstruct justice by concealing the papers, having his lawyer inform the FBI that Trump did not have the materials, and attempting to destroy camera footage that showed how the documents were handled.

The Howell judgment, which was released on Tuesday, showed that Smith suspected Nauta flew from Bedminster, New Jersey, to West Palm Beach, Florida, after Corcoran informed Trump of the subpoena for Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage on June 24, 2022.

“The government urged that this scramble to Mar-a-Lago in the wake of the June 24, 2022 phone call reflects the former president’s realization that the removal of the boxes from the storage room before [redacted] search was captured on camera − and his attempts to ensure that any subsequent movement of the boxes back to the storage room could occur off camera,” wrote Howell.

Nauta was shown on tape entering the storage area where the majority of the documents were later discovered.

However, no footage was discovered to explain how boxes of documents were returned to the room between June 2022, when Trump’s lawyer certified that all classified materials had been handed to the government, and the August 2022 search, which discovered more.

Howell pointed out “the curious absence of any video footage showing the return of the remaining boxes to the storage room, which necessarily occurred at some point between June 3, 2022 … and the execution of the search warrant on August 8, 2022 – when agents counted 73 boxes.”

Nauta is in charge of moving the crates so that they can be hidden. He was caught carrying the boxes while denying knowing where they were housed or how they got there in an FBI questioning, according to Howell’s ruling.

Nauta “engaged in patent dissembling,” Howell said.Howell stated that Trump was accused in grand jury testimony of playing a “shell game,” as the government put it.

which “documents could be moved between locations based on scheduled dates for searches of those locations, to avoid detection of those responsive records.” The government also claims Nauta and de Oliveira tried to destroy surveillance camera footage.

Neither Trump nor prosecutors explained the late discovery of boxes

Trump’s lawyers certified in June 2022 that he had returned all classified materials, two months before the FBI uncovered dozens more.

However, Howell determined that the records discovered in December 2022, four months after the search, were insufficient evidence that Trump knowingly suppressed the records.

“The government has not provided direct evidence that the former president deliberately retained, or was even aware of, the particular classified-marked documents located by his counsel at Mar-a-Lago in December 2022,” wrote Howell.

“Notably, no excuse is provided as to how the former president could miss the classified-marked documents found in his own bedroom at Mar-a-Lago.”

Trump complains about potential use of deadly force during search

Trump’s motion to dismiss the case disclosed that the FBI warrant authorizing the search included a policy statement about the “use of deadly force.”

“Law enforcement officers of the Department of Justice may use deadly force when necessary,” read the statement. Agents intended to bring regular firearms, ammunition, handcuffs, and bolt cutters, according to the statement.

In an all-caps social media post on Tuesday, Trump complained about the permission of deadly action and claimed that President Joe Biden “is a serious threat to democracy.”

Prosecutors claimed the matter was probed in accordance with constitutional standards, statutes, and regulations.

“There has been no prosecutorial misconduct, and his motion should be denied,” the attorneys said.

Trump co-defendant Nauta urges dismissal of charges

Nauta has requested Cannon to drop the charges at Wednesday’s proceedings due to claimed vindictive prosecution and inadequate accusations.

Prosecutors replied, “Nauta’s arguments are without merit and should be denied.”

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