Two defense attorneys for Donald Trump now believe that classified briefings of phone calls with foreign leaders were among “all kinds of documents” in 15 boxes that Trump returned to the National Archives a year after he left the presidency, according to new letter He sent his lawyers to Congress.
Attorneys Timothy Parlatore and Jim Trosti wrote to the GOP chair of the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.
Their characterization not only reveals new details about the documents, but also comes as part of a barrage against the Justice Department’s investigation of Trump over classified documents that set talking points for Republicans as they attempt to paint the ongoing investigation as politically motivated.
Lawyers are urging Congress to tell the Justice Department to “stand down,” even as Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation shows signs of drawing to a close, and even though Congress does not have the power to control Justice Department criminal investigations.
Parlatore and Trusty say they reviewed the 15 funds earlier this year that are now part of the DOJ investigation. According to the letter, they saw placeholder pages where classified documents had been removed by the National Archives.
“The vast majority of placeholder entries refer to briefings for phone calls with foreign leaders that were located close to the timeline of those calls,” the lawyers wrote.
The 15 boxes were turned over to the archives in January 2022. The FBI seized more boxes in August 2022 during a court-authorized search and found more than 100 classified documents, including 18 at the highest level of “top secret” designation. Trump’s legal team later found more classified material in searches of other sites.
The Justice Department never said what was in the classified materials found in Trump’s possession after the presidency. Trump’s lawyers say in their letter that the Justice Department refused to tell them whether any of the documents were still classified.
It is not clear why Trump’s legal team at this point in the special counsel’s investigation was given access to the boxes that have been turned over to the National Archives for consideration.
A letter sent Wednesday to House Intelligence Chief Mike Turner represents Trump’s legal team seeking a political lifeline by asking Congress to tell the Justice Department to step down because they believe the intelligence community should investigate what happened with the classified documents.
The attorneys wrote to Turner, “The Department of Justice should be ordered to step aside, and the intelligence community should instead conduct a proper investigation and report fully to this committee, as well as to your counterparts in the Senate.”
“This is indicative of personnel mobilizations and not any criminal intent by President Trump,” the lawyers said.
The lawyers also pointed to classified documents that have since been discovered in the residences and offices of President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence.
“As evidenced by the discovery of hashtag-labeled documents in the homes of President Trump, President Biden, and Vice President Pence, procedures for handling and storing defective documents are not limited to any individual, department, or political party,” the attorneys wrote.
The intelligence community said in August, following the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, that it was conducting its own damage assessment for the recovered classified documents.
Earlier this month, congressional intelligence chiefs were given access to some classified documents that were taken from the residences and offices of Trump, Biden and Pence so that Congress could conduct its own review.
Trump’s legal team sent a letter Wednesday to Turner and copied other intelligence leaders in Congress, including the Democratic-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee. For years, Trump allies have attacked the various investigations into the former president, but even the former attorney general, William Barr, has said the investigation into classified documents puts the former president at serious legal risk.
In an interview with CNN in February, Parlatore referenced Trump’s legal strategy, saying the Justice Department should be “sued” for matters related to classified materials, and it should be left to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to conduct an administrative review of the White House’s procedures for handling such documents at the end. each presidency.
In a letter Wednesday, Trump’s attorneys criticized the Justice Department’s handling of the case prior to the search for Mar-a-Lago, arguing that federal investigators put Trump on the defensive by issuing a grand jury subpoena instead of working cooperatively with Trump.
The letter also attempted to defend testimony given by one of Trump’s attorneys last year after the subpoena. In June 2022, Attorney Christina Pope signed an affidavit that Trump complied with the subpoena by turning over classified documents in his possession.
“Ultimately, President Trump’s legal team complied with the Department of Justice’s demands, researched as diligently as possible by Mr. (Jay) Pratt’s arbitrary deadline, and provided affidavit confirming it,” the lawyers wrote in a letter on Wednesday.
They added: “To be clear, the affidavit stated that a diligent search had been conducted, and all respondent documents found had been made available — not a search of all possible material, as many media outlets had incorrectly described the affidavit.”
However, the certificate signed by Bobb states that “Any and all responsive documents accompany this certificate.” However, Trump did not turn over all of the classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.
Since then, Pope has testified before a grand jury, and another attorney who worked on a draft response to the subpoena, Evan Corcoran, was recently forced to testify before a federal grand jury about the response and other discussions with Trump, after prosecutors believed Trump used him. Attorney to pay a crime.
Wednesday’s letter also did not indicate that the August 2022 FBI search warrant came after federal investigators were told that Trump directed the movement of crates from a basement storage room to his Mar-a-Lago residence after receiving the subpoena.
This story has been updated to reflect additional lawmakers copied in Trump’s attorney’s letter.
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