The Daily Mail summarizes a Wall Street Journal report (paywall), Trump classified documents is ‘wrapping up’: Special Counsel ‘is nearing end of Mar-a-Lago probe and ex-President’s allies are bracing for an indictment’:
The probe into Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving the White House is nearing its end, with the ex-president set to be indicted.
Special counsel Jack Smith has finished collecting evidence into how confidential presidential files ended up at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
The special counsel is wrapping up the criminal investigation into whether Donald Trump mishandled classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort https://t.co/Rx58p1yZ1K
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) May 23, 2023
The newspaper, citing people familiar with the matter, said that allies of the real estate mogul expect an indictment to be served.
Smith has undertaken interviews with every single worker at Trump’s luxury home, dubbed the ‘winter White House’ during his term in office.
His work examines whether anyone tried to scupper the criminal inquiry, or whether Trump illegally held on to documents that he should have turned over to authorities.
But it is unclear whether the top attorney has gathered enough proof for Attorney General Merrick Garland to charge the ex-commander-in-chief with a crime in this case. (See below).
It’s looking like a slam dunk case. The Guardian reports, Trump was warned about retaining classified documents, notes reveal:
Federal prosecutors have evidence Donald Trump was put on notice that he could not retain any classified documents after he was subpoenaed for their return last year, as they examine whether the subsequent failure to fully comply with the subpoena was a deliberate act of obstruction by the former president.
The previously unreported warning conveyed to Trump by his lawyer Evan Corcoran could be significant in the criminal investigation surrounding Trump’s handling of classified materials given it shows he knew about his subpoena obligations.
Last June, Corcoran found roughly 40 classified documents in the storage room at Mar-a-Lago and told the justice department that no further materials remained at the property. That was later shown to be untrue, after the FBI later returned with a warrant and seized 101 additional classified documents.
The federal investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith has recently focused on why the subpoena was not compiled with, notably whether Trump arranged for boxes of classified documents to be moved out of the storage room so he could illegally retain them.
In particular, prosecutors have fixated on Trump’s valet Walt Nauta, after he told the justice department that Trump told him to move boxes out of the storage room before and after the subpoena. The activity was captured on subpoenaed surveillance footage, though there were gaps in the tapes.
The warning was one of several key moments that Corcoran recounted in roughly 50 pages of notes he dictated that were described to the Guardian over several weeks by three people with knowledge of their contents, which prosecutors have viewed in recent months as central to the criminal investigation.
The notes revealed how Trump and Nauta had unusually detailed knowledge of the botched subpoena response, including where Corcoran intended to search and not search for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, as well as when Corcoran was actually doing his search.
Although ordinarily off limits to prosecutors, the notes ended up before the grand jury in Washington hearing evidence in the case after a US appeals court allowed attorney-client privilege to be pierced because judges believed Trump might have used Corcoran’s legal advice in furtherance of a crime. [The crime-fraud exception to privilege.]
The notes described how Corcoran told Nauta about the subpoena before he started looking for classified documents because Corcoran needed him to unlock the storage room – which prosecutors have taken as a sign that Nauta was closely involved at essentially every step of the search.
Corcoran then described how Nauta had offered to help him go through the boxes, which he declined and told Nauta he should stay outside. But going through around 60 boxes in the storage room took longer than expected, and the search ended up lasting several days.
The notes also suggested to prosecutors that there were times when the storage room might have been left unattended while the search for classified documents was ongoing, one of the people said, such as when Corcoran needed to take a break and walked out to the pool area nearby.
In addition to his exchange with Trump, Corcoran described Trump’s facial expressions and reactions whenever they discussed the subpoena. The unusually detailed nature of his notes is said to have irritated Trump, who only learned about them after the notes themselves were subpoenaed.
The notes did not address why Corcoran only looked in the storage room, though he separately testified to the grand jury that while Trump did not mislead him about where to search, he did not say where to search either. The New York Times earlier reported a summary of his testimony.
[C]onstructing an obstruction case remains challenging, and prosecutors would need to show that Trump arranged for Nauta to remove boxes he expressly knew contained classified documents demanded by the subpoena, with the intention of concealing them from his lawyer’s search.
Trump’s legal team have consistently said the subpoena response was incomplete because Corcoran was not as thorough as he should have been, in part because he left it until right before the deadline and only realized when he got there just how many boxes were in the storage room.
A Trump spokesperson has previously said of the investigation: “This is nothing more than a targeted, politically motivated witch-hunt against President Trump that is concocted to meddle in an election and prevent the American people from returning him to the White House.”
To resolve the issue about the gaps in the surveillance footage, the special counsel most recently subpoenaed Matthew Calamari Sr [“the Squid”], the Trump Organization’s security chief who became its chief operating officer, and his son Matthew Calamari Jr, the director of corporate security.
Both Calamaris testified to the grand jury earlier this month, the Guardian previously reported, and were questioned in part on a text message that Nauta had sent asking Calamari Sr to call him back about the justice department’s request for the tapes last year.
The justice department interviewed Nauta several times last year until prosecutors grew concerned that he failed to provide them with a complete and accurate account of his role in moving boxes that contained classified documents, according to two people familiar with the situation.
To force his cooperation, prosecutors threatened to charge him with lying to the FBI after he gave differing accounts over several interviews. But that incensed Nauta’s lawyer, who told the justice department his client would not talk again unless he was charged or offered an immunity deal.
After losing Nauta, investigators have turned to other witnesses who could shed light on his role. In recent interviews, they have asked whether Nauta removed boxes containing classified documents when he was in the storage room at the time of the subpoena, and where he went with them.
A new subpoena issued by Special Counsel Jack Smith to Donald Trump demands records related to his golf venture with a Saudi-based real estate company to license its name to a housing, hotel and golf complex that will be built in Oman, and other foreign ventures since 2017. This suggests that Mr. Smith is exploring whether there is any connection between Mr. Trump’s deal-making abroad and the classified documents he took with him when he left office. Prosecutors Sought Records on Trump’s Foreign Business Deals Since 2017 (excerpt):
Federal prosecutors overseeing the investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s handling of classified documents have issued a subpoena for information about Mr. Trump’s business dealings in foreign countries since he took office, according to two people familiar with the matter.
It remains unclear precisely what the prosecutors were hoping to find by sending the subpoena to Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, or when it was issued. But the subpoena suggests that investigators have cast a wider net than previously understood as they scrutinize whether he broke the law in taking sensitive government materials with him upon leaving the White House and then not fully complying with demands for their return.
The subpoena — drafted by the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith — sought details on the Trump Organization’s real estate licensing and development dealings in seven countries: China, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, according to the people familiar with the matter. The subpoena sought the records for deals reached since 2017, when Mr. Trump was sworn in as president.
[T]he push by Mr. Smith’s prosecutors to gain insight into the former president’s foreign business was part of a subpoena — previously reported by The New York Times — that was sent to the Trump Organization and sought records related to Mr. Trump’s dealings with a Saudi-backed golf venture known as LIV Golf, which is holding tournaments at some of his golf clubs. (Mr. Trump’s arrangement with LIV Golf was reached well after he removed documents from the White House.)
It is unclear what material the Trump Organization has turned over in response to the subpoena or whether Mr. Smith has obtained any separate evidence supporting that theory. But since the start of their investigation, prosecutors have sought to understand not only what sorts of materials Mr. Trump removed from the White House, but also why he might have taken them with him.
Among the government documents discovered in Mr. Trump’s possession were some related to Middle Eastern countries, according to a person familiar with Mr. Smith’s work. And when the F.B.I. executed a search warrant in August 2022 at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida, among the items recovered was material related to President Emmanuel Macron of France, according to court records.
[W]hile establishing a motive for why Mr. Trump kept hold of certain documents could be helpful to Mr. Smith, it would not necessarily be required in proving that Mr. Trump willfully maintained possession of national defense secrets or that he obstructed the government’s repeated efforts to get the materials back. Those two potential crimes have long been at the heart of the government’s documents investigation.
If Trump stole classified documents to personally benefit himself financially with foreign governments – selling state secrets – he is in deep shit and is looking at spending the rest of his life in prison. Of course, at his age, this could also be true for a simple mishandling of classified documents count.
UPDATE: This is what defense attorneys do in high profile cases when they expect their client to be indicted. So take this as confirmation of the Wall Street Journal reporting. Fearing indictment is imminent in classified docs probe, Trump team requests meeting with DOJ:
Former President Donald Trump’s legal team has formally requested a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland, amid fears from his attorneys that the coming weeks could bring a possible indictment of Trump regarding his alleged efforts to retain materials after leaving office and to obstruct the government’s attempts to retrieve them.
Like clockwork, after @WSJ report that the special counsel probe of Trump’s classified doc handling is nearing indictment, Trump reveals he had his lawyers today demand a meeting with Attorney General Garland pic.twitter.com/tEqBoSmGjQ
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) May 24, 2023
The letter, though thin on details, presents arguments that Trump should not be charged in the investigation related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.
The letter asks Garland for a meeting at his earliest convenience to discuss what the attorneys describe as the “ongoing injustice that is being perpetrated” by special counsel Jack Smith and says that no president has been “baselessly investigated” in such an “unlawful fashion.”
The one-page letter was signed by Trump lawyers John Rowley and James Trusty, and does not outline any specific allegations of wrongdoing by Smith and his team.
The request does not specifically detail what Trump’s legal team wants to discuss with the attorney general. Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing associated with his handling of materials bearing classification markings.
It’s not clear whether Trump’s attorneys are acting on any specific knowledge of Smith’s investigation.
Trump posted the letter on his Truth Social account Tuesday night.
A spokesperson for Garland and a spokesperson for the special counsel’s office both declined to comment to ABC News.
What do you think?