WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Donald Trump appeared Thursday in federal court for a closed trial as prosecutors urge the return of what they believe are other government documents owned by the former president, and increase efforts to interview people close to him who are knowledgeable about the matter.
Attorneys Jim Trusty, Evan Corcoran and Lindsey Halligan declined to comment as they exited the Washington courthouse.
The Justice Department’s investigation into the possible misuse of classified documents at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort has sparked a spate of lawsuits since FBI agents removed more than 11,000 documents, including about 100 marked classified, from the resort in August have removed florida .
Prosecutors have tried to force Mr Trump to produce any remaining documents and have asked his legal team to discuss a number of options, people familiar with the matter said. This includes hiring an outside firm to conduct a search and confirming that no additional documents exist, and initiating a legal challenge to the Department of Justice’s claim.
Thursday’s hearing in Washington was likely related to that ongoing dispute, observers said. A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment. A spokesman for the former president did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mr Trump and his associates have previously criticized the government’s investigative tactics as overly aggressive, including those carried out in secret in recent weeks.
In addition to investigating whether anyone misappropriated classified documents, prosecutors have said they are investigating whether anyone attempted to obstruct investigations and government efforts to recover the material.
In recent weeks, a senior Justice Department official told lawyers for Mr Trump that law enforcement officials do not believe they captured all of the government documents the former president took with him when he left office, the Wall Street Journal reported. Investigators have expressed concern that Mr Trump took documents on flights when traveling from Mar-a-Lago to his other properties in New York and New Jersey.
Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, have encountered some roadblocks in their investigations as people close to Mr Trump and some who worked for him have declined to answer investigators’ questions.
According to a person familiar with the matter, prosecutors are trying to force a close aide, Kash Patel, to answer a series of questions, including about Mr Trump’s claim that he released the documents before leaving the White House.
Mr. Patel, a former White House and Pentagon aide whom Mr. Trump was considering appointing for top positions at the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI late in his tenure, has publicly claimed since May that Mr. Trump used the documents after his Departure was largely cleared by the White House in January 2021. His comments first came as Justice Department efforts to recover the documents from Mar-a-Lago intensified, and prosecutors issued a grand jury subpoena for their return that same month .
There is no documented evidence that Mr. Trump released the documents, and his attorneys have never made any such claim in court filings.
Earlier this month, Mr. Patel appeared before a grand jury to hear evidence about the handling of the documents and repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by refusing to answer, which a person familiar with the matter said as a series of questions, including some that appeared unrelated to the documents or Mr. Trump.
In response, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to compel Mr. Patel to testify, the person said, adding that Mr. Patel’s attorneys argued his statements before a grand jury could put him in legal jeopardy. Prosecutors argued that Mr Patel had no reasonable expectation that he would be prosecuted based on the types of questions they asked, the person said, an argument the judge did not accept. The request to the judge was previously reported by the New York Times.
Investigators were also hampered in their efforts to re-interview Walt Nauta, a former military servant who went to Mar-a-Lago for work after Mr Trump left the White House and was seen on surveillance footage removing boxes from a storage room moved before and after investigators issued the May subpoena, the Journal reported. Mr Nauta told investigators that he did so at the request of Mr Trump.
Investigators have spoken to Mr Nauta at least twice, asking him to submit to further questioning, in part to clarify what prosecutors believe were conflicting statements. He declined another round of questions, a person familiar with the matter said, concerned that prosecutors might be considering charges against him.
Another aide, Will Russell, who served as a presidential travel coordinator at Trump’s White House and went on to work for the former president in Florida, has also declined to speak to investigators who have communicated with his attorney.
Since the investigation began, investigators have spoken to a number of other people, including close associates of the former president.
—Jan Wolfe and Alex Leary contributed to this article.
Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8