M. Evan Corcoran, left, is part of Donald J. Trump’s quickly assembled legal team.Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times
Lawyers for former President Donald Trump appeared for a “secret” hearing in a Washington, D.C., federal courthouse on Thursday, which appears to be for talks surrounding the high-profile investigation into his handling of documents.
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer spoke with senior justice correspondent Evan Perez, who said Trump’s legal team, including Evan Corcoran, Jim Trusty, and Lindsey Halligan, appeared before Chief Judge Beryl Howell in a sealed courtroom with the Justice Department’s legal team that is handling the investigation into documents seized from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago by the FBI. Video footage from Thursday afternoon showed the lawyers walking on a sidewalk. Perez said they would not say what exactly was being discussed, and reporters were not allowed in the courtroom as the matter is under seal.
“We know this was really the backdrop of all of this is the Justice Department’s push for Trump to turn over whatever additional documents that at least the Justice Department believes are still missing and may still be in the possession of the former president,” Perez added. “They have continued to maintain that they believe there continues to be government documents that are missing, and they want the former president to figure out whether they are still in possession at one of his properties and how to turn them back over to the federal government.”
Government investigators are working to determine whether Trump committed a host of crimes, including those engaged with the destruction of government documents, mishandling of classified information, and obstruction. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has claimed that he declassified all the records taken from his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. The FBI raid, which took place in August, stemmed from months of back-and-forth over federal officials working to retrieve documents they say belong to the government. The FBI seized nearly 200,000 pages‘ worth of documents, which encompassed about 100 documents with classified documents, according to court documents.
Beyond the search for more documents, Trump and the Justice Department are locked in a dispute over materials that may be considered privileged. Judge Raymond Dearie was appointed as the special master third-party reviewer to root out material that he believes should be shielded from federal investigators. The Justice Department is appealing the appointment of a special master in the case.
Blitzer also invited former federal prosecutor Shan Wu to comment on the “secret meeting” and what may have been taking place at the courthouse on Thursday.
“Based on Evan’s reporting and the fact there didn’t appear to be witnesses there or witness counsel, this likely is about the ever-continuing search for the documents that Trump has not turned over. It sounds like they’re probably negotiating over compliance with that original grand jury subpoena,” Wu said. “And I really do hope that the department is not being too generous towards Trump in allowing them to negotiate a possible second search warrant. The whole point of a search warrant is you can’t trust people to turn over the documents. But it sounds like it’s about the documents. And you know, if this was a drug dealer, if it was a jewel thief, it would be pretty obvious that you would search all of their residences. And they already searched one and found things that were being concealed. So I hope they will continue down that path.”
Blitzer also asked Perez if the Justice Department still believes Trump has government documents in his possession.
“They continue to tell the former president’s legal team, Wolf, that they believe there are still documents missing, and the question is, how do you try to retrieve those? I don’t think anybody believes that the FBI is going to go back in and conduct a forceful search like they did last time,” Perez said. “But that’s why I think you go before a judge, to try to force the former president to comply with a subpoena, which, you know, most people don’t need multiple times to be reminded to comply.”