A lawyer for former President Donald Trump explained to him last year that retaining government documents beyond a subpoena order issued to him from the Justice Department would constitute criminal activity, according to a new report.
These revelations, as reported by ABC News, which cites numerous sources with knowledge of the conversations, detail how special counsel Jack Smith and his team may have concluded that Trump knowingly broke the law when it came to his stashing thousands of government documents, including hundreds marked as classified, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
The lawyer, Jennifer Little, is still employed by Trump. According to the report, Little told Trump in late spring that he had to comply with a subpoena order from the Department of Justice (DOJ). If he failed to abide by the subpoena order, she told the former president, “it’s going to be a crime.”
Little detailed these conversations with Trump to investigators within the special counsel’s office earlier this year, telling them she “very clearly” issued the warning to Trump, who “absolutely” understood what she meant. Little’s warnings were also reinforced by another Trump attorney at the time, Evan Corcoran, who was in charge of gathering the documents to hand over to the DOJ after the order was given.
During his collection process, which took place after the subpoena was given to Trump in May 2022, Corcoran was told by aides of the former president that he shouldn’t search Trump’s personal quarters at Mar-a-Lago, including his office, for the government materials he was supposed to return. Corcoran was assured by these aides that Trump didn’t have any of the materials in those areas, and drafted an affidavit to the DOJ saying that all classified documents had been successfully returned, to the best of his and Trump’s knowledge.
Additional evidence examined by the DOJ after the subpoena had been carried out demonstrated that government materials remained on the premises, resulting in a search warrant being executed in August of that year. Thousands of government documents, including more than 100 marked as classified, were found within that search, including in Trump’s personal office and in other areas of Mar-a-Lago, such as ballrooms and restrooms.
This latest reporting from ABC News, when examined in conjunction with other reports detailing how Trump had ordered staffers at his residence to relocate documents before the subpoena was carried out, is perhaps the most damning revelation in months relating to the case, demonstrating that Trump was well aware that his actions were illegal.
Trump faces 40 federal criminal charges relating to the unlawful retention of sensitive government documents and obstructing efforts by federal agents to retrieve them. His trial is set to begin in May of next year. However, several pre-trial motions by his lawyers that have been granted by Judge Aileen Cannon, the Trump-appointed judge who is overseeing the case, will likely delay the trial from happening before the 2024 election; if Trump wins, he will undoubtedly appoint a new attorney general who will dismiss the charges altogether.
Several legal experts have called for Smith and his team to file a motion to have Cannon removed from the trial for what they say are clear and unwarranted biases favoring the defendant, or at the very least, for her pre-trial rulings that indicate she is too novice a judge to take on such an important case.
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