According to two sources familiar with the matter, the Justice Department is asking a federal judge to hold Donald Trump in contempt of court for failing to comply with a subpoena issued this summer ordering the former president to turn over classified records.
The development comes after Trump’s legal team said it searched four locations just before Thanksgiving, discovering two documents with classified markings at a Florida storage facility. The Trump team turned over the two documents to the FBI and told a federal judge in Washington, DC, that they believed Trump was now in compliance with a 6-month subpoena.
However, the Justice Department was not convinced. Last week, department prosecutors told DC District Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who oversees federal grand jury proceedings in the district, that the searches were insufficient. The contempt proceedings before Howell are being kept under wraps.
The proceedings increase the pressure on Trump, who could face criminal charges as a result of the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith. It also adds another chapter to the ongoing struggle for federal officials to reclaim government records from Trump after his administration ended, particularly those containing national security secrets.
he Trump team turned over boxes and an envelope of federal records, including some marked as classified, in January and June. Federal agencies had been requesting their return for months, and in May, the Justice Department issued a subpoena requesting classified document.
Following the subpoena, investigators found reason to search Mar-a-Lago, seizing 33 more boxes of records, including over 100 classified documents. Prosecutors have recently insisted that sensitive government documents remain missing and that Trump is obligated to return them.
According to one source, the Justice Department has not disclosed to Trump’s legal team which materials it believes have not been returned.
Howell will hold a hearing on Friday to determine whether Trump and his post-presidency office are in contempt of court. He could face fines if found in contempt. Since leaving office, Trump has been held in contempt of court for refusing to comply with subpoenas for documents.
A source familiar with the former president’s legal strategy, the Trump legal team is anticipated to make the case at the hearing on Friday that the recent searches for classified material at the four locations, including Trump Tower, were all thorough and should demonstrate his compliance with the subpoena.
The source claimed that investigators employed by the Trump campaign looked into the locations but in most cases did not discover anything significant. This source claimed that when looking into the storage unit where two documents marked classified were discovered, investigators came across unopened boxes that needed to be cut open with a knife. According to the source, those boxes had not been opened since Trump left office based on the condition of them.