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Lawyers found classified documents in Trump’s bedroom four months after the Mar-a-Lago search

Four months after the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago estate, Donald TrumpThe man’s lawyers discovered four documents marked ‘secret’ in his personal bedroom.

That revelation was one of several cited by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in a recently released 2023 opinion finding that prosecutors presented compelling evidence that Trump knowingly hid national security documents in his home and then attempted to remove them to hide when the Justice Department tried to retrieve them.

In her 87-page opinion, Howell said the likelihood that Trump committed crimes was a basis for allowing special counsel Jac Smith to question the former president’s attorney, Evan Corcoran, on topics that would normally be protected by attorney-client privilege. Prosecutors, Howell said, had shown that Trump knew Corcoran had been instructed in June 2022 to inform the government that all classified materials had been returned, “a statement that the former president … knew was wrong.”

The FBI’s August 2022 search of Mar-a-Lago confirmed that dozens of other classified documents remained on the property — but as Howell notes, at least two more rounds of classified material were found on Trump’s property after additional searches.

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Throughout the opinion, Howell — then chief judge of the federal district court in Washington, D.C. — described with varying degrees of disbelief how four documents with classification marks could have been discovered in Trump’s private quarters, months after prosecutors subpoenaed them and the FBI conducted carry out an extensive search of the property yourself.

“Specifically, no excuse is given for how the former president might have missed the confidential documents he found in his own bedroom at Mar-a-Lago,” Howell, an Obama appointee, wrote.

In a footnote, Howell also noted that another Trump adviser affiliated with his Save America PAC had acknowledged that in 2021 he had scanned the contents of the box containing the classified materials and stored them on a personal laptop belonging to the PAC.

Trump’s office provided the box containing the four documents to the FBI in January 2023, Howell noted.

Howell’s opinion was revealed, along with a trove of other previously secret grand jury-related documents that emerged from the investigation into Trump for withholding reams of classified documents after he left office in 2021, including some of the most sensitive military secrets of the country. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee based in South Florida, released the set of documents Tuesday after lengthy negotiations with Smith’s team and Trump’s lawyers over redactions.

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Notably, it was Trump who had used Howell’s opinion — despite the strong rebuke of his behavior — to argue in support of an effort to dismiss the case against him for “prosecution misconduct.” That filing, also recently released Tuesday, notes that Howell, in a footnote, blasted prosecutor Julie Edelstein for pressuring another Trump lawyer, Tim Parlatore, to reveal attorney-client privileged information — and for wondered whether Trump’s refusal to relinquish the privilege was a sign of his distaste.

“The former president is right that ‘[i]When a witness exercises a particular right or privilege, it is generally agreed that it is inappropriate to suggest that adverse inferences should be drawn,’” Howell wrote, citing texts on standard grand jury practices.

But she also said the exchange had little relevance to the issue related to Corcoran.

Cannon has scheduled a hearing in the case for Wednesday, though she recently indicated that the trial of the charges Trump faces is unlikely to begin before the end of the summer — and possibly long after.

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Howell, who as chief judge oversaw the initial grand jury proceedings that led to Trump’s criminal indictment in the classified documents case, wrote in her opinion that one of Trump’s closest aides, Walt Nauta, was “clearly pretending” when he interviewed with the FBI. about his own role in moving boxes that later turned out to contain secret materials. Nauta was ultimately charged along with Trump with trying to prevent government officials from reclaiming the classified documents.

Howell also recounted in painstaking detail the battles between Smith’s team and Trump over searches of his other properties and whether his lawyers had tried to frustrate prosecutors’ efforts to enforce their subpoena for the remaining classified documents in Trump’s home .

In addition to allowing Smith’s team to question Corcoran, she agreed that 88 documents that Corcoran had attempted to withhold through attorney-client privilege should also be made public because they constituted “sufficient ‘further’ to the criminal scheme of the former president.”

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