Federal judge found ‘strong evidence’ of crimes before Trump was charged in classified documents case

From the US Department of Justice

This US Department of Justice photo allegedly shows Walt Nauta moving boxes inside former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.


Months before Donald Trump was charged with mishandling classified documents, a federal judge said investigators had “strong evidence” that the former president “intended” to hide classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort, according to recently released court documents.

Judge Beryl Howell cited, among other things, the discovery of additional classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago months after the FBI’s search of the property in the summer of 2022. The records included a “mostly empty” folder. marked as “Classified Night.” Summary” that was found in the former president’s bedroom, as well as four other documents with classification marks found in his post-presidential office at the resort.

“In particular, no excuse is provided for how the former president could have lost the classified documents found in his own room at Mar-a-Lago,” Howell wrote in March 2023.

The ruling is among hundreds of pages of previously sealed filings that were publicly recorded Tuesday in the classified criminal documents case against Trump. Also included was new footage of Walt Nauta, Trump’s personal assistant, moving boxes around the Mar-a-Lago room before a Trump attorney searched the boxes for classified materials requested by a subpoena.

Prosecutors say Nauta moved boxes as part of an alleged conspiracy to hide classified material from federal investigators.

Nauta has been charged along with Trump and Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira in the case, facing charges of mishandling confidential or classified materials and obstruction. All three have pleaded not guilty.

Nauta’s photos, which appear to be screenshots of surveillance footage, are dated June 1, 2022, shortly before Trump’s lawyer was scheduled to search the storage room for documents with classified markings to be returned to the federal government.

The case against Trump, launched last summer, is currently before Judge Aileen Cannon in Fort Pierce, Florida. Cannon is a Trump appointee.

01:17 – Source: CNN

‘Not what Jack Smith wanted to hear’: Legal expert on judge’s decision

Trump’s defense team is seeking to dismiss parts of prosecutors’ case, including all evidence seized from Mar-a-Lago and obtained from his former attorney Evan Corcoran, according to documents filed in federal court in South Florida.

Trump’s team argues that the search warrant was invalid because of the way an FBI agent described the agency’s thinking to a judge. They are also challenging Howell’s 2023 ruling ordering Corcoran to provide testimony and produce documents he had previously withheld from the grand jury investigating the matter.

Howell, a Barack Obama appointee, said at the time that prosecutors had “sufficient evidence to show that the former president” used Corcoran as “a ‘cover’ to obstruct the government’s investigation and perpetuate the former president’s illegal detention.” of any classified documents contained in boxes transferred from the White House.”

From the US Department of Justice

This US Department of Justice photo allegedly shows Walt Nauta moving boxes inside former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Corcoran played a key role in the investigation of the classified documents, as he was the attorney tasked with finding and producing documents with classified markings at Trump’s Florida resort. In the criminal case filed last year, prosecutors say there was a Trump-led conspiracy to move boxes of government records from storage before Corcoran searched them for classified materials.

Corcoran is referred to as “Person 18” in Howell’s ruling, but he can be identified based on what is known about the case.

01:11 – Source: CNN

Haberman: Ex-Trump lawyer’s note-taking ‘disturbing’ for Trump

Among the topics Howell ordered Corcoran to testify about was a phone call he had with Trump on June 24, 2022, the same day investigators subpoenaed surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago. He also ordered the production of 88 documents that had been withheld under attorney-client privilege.

Howell recounted Trump’s actions over several months as the federal government sought to recover confidential documents stolen from the White House.

Trump “deliberately restricted his staff’s efforts to comply” with the National Archives’ initial efforts to recover the documents, he wrote.

“The former president’s misdirection of NARA was apparently a dress rehearsal for his actions in response to the May 11, 2022 subpoena,” Howell said.

Twenty-one of the 32 national security documents Trump is accused of criminally mishandling were in the former president’s possession on August 8, 2022, the date of the FBI’s search at Mar-a-Lago.

That means that Trump’s team in this newly available suppression motion seeks to remove from the case those 21 documents (and therefore their related charges) and the hundreds of other classified records surrounding them, in addition to the part of the case that accuses Trump of obstruction. of justice being built around Corcoran.

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