The Department of Justice has asked District Court Judge Beryl Howell to hold “Trump’s office” in contempt over refusals to comply with a May subpoena to produce classified documents. Details of just who this affects and what action is being requested are not yet available, as the filing has been made under seal.
The Washington Post reports that, according to their sources, Judge Howell has not yet responded to this request. However, they indicate that Trump is “under investigation for three potential crimes: mishandling classified documents, obstruction, and destruction of government records.” This contempt charge would be in addition to those crimes, and represents a failure to abide by the terms of the May subpoena.
What the Justice Department wants is for Trump’s legal team to name some member as a custodian of record, who could then state that all classified documents held at Trump’s properties had been found and returned. Trump’s team continues to refuse to do so. In fact, Trump’s team is reportedly staking out the position that it would be “unreasonable” for anyone to sign such a statement. Their reluctance is easy to understand. After all, Donald Trump is their client.
In January, after a long delay, Donald Trump personally loaded up 15 boxes of illegally taken materials to ship back to the National Archives. Trump claimed that the boxes contained all the classified material he had taken away with him to Mar-a-Lago. At the time, he tried to get a member of his legal team to sign a document repeating that claim, but that attorney refused to sign.
However, the same was not true in June, when two members of the FBI met with a Trump attorney and were given a folio that supposedly held all the remaining documents. On that occasion, the attorney did sign to say that Trump’s team had conducted a diligent search and there was nothing more on the property. That was just six weeks before the FBI was back at Mar-a-Lago where they eventually located hundreds of classified documents, including some classified at the highest levels. Some of the most dangerous documents—including what are reportedly nuclear secrets connected with Iran—were found in the desk drawer of Trump’s personal office.
On Wednesday, Trump’s legal team claimed that they had completed a search of two other Trump properties and found nothing, then immediately followed up by turning over two more classified documents that had been stored in a facility at West Palm Beach.
Now, none of them want to sign off on a claim that Trump isn’t hiding any more classified documents—probably because it’s a very good bet that Trump is hiding more classified documents.
Instead, his legal team only wants to state that a search has been conducted of specific properties, which might be reasonable if they were making this statement days after the subpoena was issued. However, it’s been seven months. If Trump’s team wanted to conduct searches, they’ve had time to get go through every drawer, cubbyhole, and hidden safe in Trumpland.
The DOJ isn’t asking anything unreasonable. They’re just fed up with the footdragging that is absolutely typical of any event that brings Trump into court. Hopefully, Judge Howell is right there with them.
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