Image Credits: Department of Justice.
On August 30, 2022, the United States of America filed a lengthy document with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, West Palm Beach Division. It was a response to disgraced ex-president Donald Trump’s “Motion for Judicial Oversight and Additional Relief” with respect to documents and materials seized by the government on August 8, 2022 at his Mar-a-Lago luxury resort. Specifically, Trump is asking for a “Special Master” to review the materials for signs of executive or attorney/client privilege, and then to have the materials returned to him.
The government’s response was signed by U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez and Jay Bratt, the Justice Department’s chief of the Counterintelligence in the National Security Division.
Their response covers a lot of ground and you may not have time to read it. You can save yourself a lot of trouble by simply scrolling down to the bottom where there are several attachments, listed A thru F. I believe attachments C thru F explain better than anything else why the Fed’s searched Mar-a-Lago.
Attachment C is a copy of a subpoena issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on May 11, 2022 to the Custodian of Records of The Office of Donald J. Trump. It reads in part:
YOU ARE COMMANDED to appear in this United States district court at the time, date, and place shown below to testify before the courtt’s grand jury. When you arrive, you must remain at the court until the judge or a court officer allows you to leave.
The subpoena was requested by Mr. Bratt, the DOJ’s counterintelligence chief. The date and time were May 24, 2022 at 9:00 am. And the custodian was instructed to bring all documents in Trump’s possession bearing the following classification markers:
Any and all documents or writings in the custody or control of Donald J. Trump and/or the Office of Donald J. Trump bearing classification markings, including but not limited to the following: Top Secret, Secret, Confidential, Top Secret/SI-G/NOFORN/ORCON, Top Secret/SI-G/NOFORN, Top Secret/HCS- 0/NOFORN/ORCON, Top Secret/HCS-0/NOFORN, Top Secret/HCS-P/NOFORN/ORCON, Top Secret/HCS-P/NOFORN, Top Secret/TK/NOFORN/ORCON, Top Secret/TK/NOFORN, Secret/NOFORN, Confidential/NOFORN, TS, TS/SAP, TS/SI-G/NF/OC, TS/SI-G/NF, TS/HCS- 0/NF/OC, TS/HCS-0/NF, TS/HCS-P/NF/OC, TS/HCS-P/NF, TS/HCS-P/SI-G, TS/HCS-P/SI/TK, TS/TK/NF/OC, TS/TK/NF, S/NF, S/FRD, S/NATO, S/SI, C, and C/NF.
I think it’s pretty clear what Trump needed to do at this point. But his custodian of records did not show up on May 24. Attachment D explains why.
Attachment D is a copy of a letter Mr. Bratt sent to a Trump attorney named Evan Corcoran on May 11, the same day the subpoena was issued. Bratt agreed to forego the grand jury appearance and instead have FBI agents travel to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve the documents (emphasis mine):
Dear Mr. Corcoran:
Thank you for agreeing to accept service of the grand jury subpoena on behalf of the custodian of records for the Office of Donald J. Trump.
As we discussed, in lieu of personally appearing on May 24, the custodian may comply with the subpoena by providing any responsive documents to the FBI at the place of their location. The FBI will ensure that the agents retrieving the documents have the proper clearances and will handle the materials in the appropriate manner. The custodian would also provide a sworn certification that the documents represent all responsive records. If there are no responsive documents, the custodian would provide a sworn certification to that effect.
Thank you again for your cooperation.
In the end, Bratt personally accompanied the FBI agents to Mar-a-Lago on June 3, 2022. Attachment E is a copy of the required “sworn certification” Trump’s lawyers provided Bratt that day.
I hereby certify as follows:
1. I have been designated to serve as Custodian of Records for The Office of Donald J. Trump, for purposes of the testimony and documents subject to subpoena #GJ20222042790054.
- I understand that this certification is made to comply with the subpoena, in lieu of a personal appearance and testimony.
- Based upon the information that has been provided to me, I am authorized to certify, on behalf of the Office of Donald J. Trump, the following:
- A diligent search was conducted of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida;
- This search was conducted after receipt of the subpoena, in order to locate any and all documents that are responsive to the subpoena;
- Any and all responsive documents accompany this certification; and
- No copy, written notation, or reproduction of any kind was retained as to any responsive document.
I swear or affirm that the above statements are true and correct to the best of my knowledge.
As you can see, the June 3 meeting at Mar-a-Lago was understood by all parties to be a substitute for the “commanded” 9:00 am appearance before a Washington DC grand jury on May 24. Trump’s attorneys turned over classified documents and certified that “a diligent search” guaranteed that Trump no longer possessed anything responsive to the subpoena.
But Attachment F shows that this was a false representation. It’s simply a photo of records found in Donald Trump’s office.
Everything else is academic. The counterintelligence chief of the Department of Justice realized that Trump had not complied with the demands of the grand jury and still retained highly classified information. He knew that Trump’s lawyers had lied to him. His search confirmed all this, as any “diligent” search would have discovered the documents, just as the FBI quickly located them during the execution of the warrant.
There’s nothing radical about what the government did to Trump. He brought all of this on himself. We can use teams of counterintelligence and psychologists to try to determine why he committed these crimes, but there really could not be an expectation that he could commit them with impunity.
You can’t blow off a grand jury’s demands, nor can you can make false declarations to the Feds. You also can’t simply retain highly classified material in an insecure manner just because you were once the president.
His resort got raided at as a result. He’s guilty of serious crimes. We should lock him up.