Is Donald Trump hanging onto even more classified documents? Those who say don’t know, and those who know don’t say. Or perhaps more accurately, no one knows, and yet they’re all willing to say he’s clean as a whistle — just not under oath.
As of this writing, Trump’s lawyers are back in US District Court in DC explaining to Chief Judge Beryl Howell why nobody on Team Trump will step up to the plate to be custodian of his records. So weird how no one wants to say under penalty of perjury that Trump complied with the five-month-old subpoena and handed over all items bearing classified markings. It’s not like when Trump’s lawyers finally hired an outside firm to search, they found two more classified documents this week.
As the Washington Post was first to report yesterday, prosecutors are now asking Judge Howell to hold Trump in contempt for his failure to comply with the subpoena. Like, actually comply for real — not some half-assed declaration from attorney Christina Bobb, late of the One America News Network, attesting that unnamed people told her there’d been an exhaustive search that came up empty.
The Post reports that Trump’s lawyer/fixer Boris Epshteyn called Bobb on June 2, hours before a visit to Mar-a-Lago by Jay Bratt, the head of the DOJ’s Counterintelligence Division to discuss the grand jury subpoena for all documents bearing classified markings. Epshteyn instructed Bobb to show up in the morning and meet Evan Corcoran, a former AUSA who represents Trump in the documents dispute, for the interview with Bratt.
And despite the fact that she’d never met Corcoran before and did not participate in any such search, Bobb signed the attestation he prepared stating that, to the best of her knowledge, “A diligent search was conducted of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida,’ and “Any and all responsive documents accompany this certification.” Which really speaks volumes as to the exquisite judgment of both parties. AHEM.
The pair then handed Bratt a sealed redweld of classified documents and assumed they were all in the clear. Except it turned out there were dozens more classified documents, as well as hundreds of records belonging to the government, scattered across different locations at the former president’s private club, as the FBI discovered when it showed up two months later with a warrant. So now no one wants to be the one signing a document that says “yep, we totally complied with that subpoena, nothing to see here.”
And while Judge Aileen Cannon in the Southern District of Florida was willing to give Trump everything his heart desired, including nixing the part of special master Judge Raymond Dearie’s order that would have forced the former president to say what, if anything, he believes the FBI planted on him, it seems pretty clear that Judge Howell is not inclined to be quite so generous.
And speaking of Judge Cannon, Trump’s lawyers failed to request a stay of the Eleventh Circuit order vacating the special master appointment and instructing Judge Cannon to dismiss the case. So as of yesterday, that part of the debacle appears to have run its course.
But clearly there is much more debacle to come! Trump is an inexhaustible well of debacle that will never run dry while he’s above the ground. Drink up!
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.