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A top federal judge denied a Justice Department request to occupy Donald Trump’s office on grounds of contempt of court for failing to fully comply with a subpoena demanding the return of all documents with secret markings, according to sources who be familiar with procedures.
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Chief U.S. Judge for the District of Columbia, Beryl Howell, told the department during a closed-door hearing on Friday that they would have to resolve the case themselves with Trump’s legal team because a contemptuous ruling would not stand, the sources said. .
The precise details of the hearing were not clear with the sealed case. But the judge’s move amounts to a victory for Trump as he grapples with a criminal investigation into the unauthorized retention of national security information at his Mar-a-Lago resort and obstruction of justice.
Federal prosecutors had tried to force Trump to appoint a custodian of records and testify under oath that all documents with secret markings had been returned to the government — as demanded by the grand jury subpoena issued in May — or otherwise the office of Trump contemptuous.
The contempt action would target Trump’s political office, as the subpoena was aimed at returning all documents and writings “in the custody of Donald J Trump and/or Donald J Trump’s office” with classification markers.
In response to the subpoena, Trump’s attorney, Evan Corcoran, handed over a folder of documents to the Justice Department and asked another Trump attorney, Christina Bobb, to sign a statement that she strongly reservations about the search. had not done, the Guardian previously reported.
The letter ultimately stated that Bobb made the statement “based on the information provided to me” and “to the best of my knowledge,” a fact she emphasized to the department around the time prosecutors collected the file and certification letter, according to a person familiar with the matter.
But after the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 and found 103 documents marked classified — leading prosecutors to believe the subpoena had not been followed — the department sought Trump’s lawyers to reaffirm that no further material more.
Trump’s legal team has resisted appointing a custodian of records and taking an affidavit, despite repeated requests. That deeply frustrated prosecutors, who told the legal team that if they didn’t provide a second statement, they would seek judicial enforcement.
In a statement, a Trump spokesman said the former president and his lawyers would “remain transparent and cooperative even in the face of the highly armed and corrupt ‘Justice’ Department witch hunt.”
The closed-door lawsuit between the Justice Department and Trump’s attorneys comes after it emerged that a search of a Florida storage unit containing boxes of Trump’s material turned up two more documents marked classified, in addition to the 103 found in March. a-Lago by the FBI.
It was not clear whether the department initiated the contempt proceeding before or after the two additional documents were found, though Trump’s legal team would have turned over the two new documents as soon as they were discovered, the sources said.