Lawyers for Donald Trump met with top US justice department officials on Monday to complain about perceived misconduct in the criminal investigation into the former US president’s handling of national security materials and obstruction, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The meeting involved Trump lawyers Jim Trusty, John Rowley and Lindsay Halligan speaking with the special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the investigation, and a senior career official to the deputy attorney general, one person said. CBS News first reported the meeting.
Trump’s lawyers made a general case as to why Trump should not be charged in the Mar-a-Lago documents case and suggested that some prosecutors working under special counsel Jack Smith engaged in what they considered prosecutorial misconduct, the people said.
The exact allegations are not clear but Trump’s lawyers for weeks have complained privately that Jay Bratt, the chief of the counterintelligence and espionage section at the justice department, once sought to induce a witness into confirming something they declined to, one of the people said.
Complaints of that nature result in an internal note to the special counsel and are unlikely to delay the criminal investigation.
The meeting comes weeks after Trump’s lawyers asked the justice department for a meeting with the attorney general, Merrick Garland, to raise grievances about what they considered as unfair treatment of Trump over his handling of classified documents compared to other former presidents.
“No president of the United States has ever, in the history of our country, been baselessly investigated in such an outrageous and unlawful fashion,” said the letter written by Trusty and Rowley.
While it is not unusual for lawyers to seek a meeting with prosecutors near the end of an investigation, it typically is not with the attorney general. That is especially the case in special counsel investigations, where charging decisions can only be overruled if department rules were not followed.
The development comes as prosecutors have recently asked witnesses before the grand jury hearing evidence in the case in Washington whether Trump showed off national security materials, including a document concerning military action against Iran, people close to the case said.
Prosecutors have seemingly been trying to identify whether that Iran document was the same document Trump referenced on an audio recording in which he said he could not discuss it because he did not declassify it while in office – though he should have, the Guardian previously reported.
The investigation has also examined whether the failure by Trump to fully comply with a subpoena last year demanding the return of any classified documents was a deliberate act of obstruction, the people said.
Last June, the since-recused Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran found 38 classified documents in the storage room at Mar-a-Lago and told the justice department that no further materials remained at the property – which came into question when the FBI seized 101 additional classified documents months later.
The Guardian has reported that Corcoran later told associates he felt misled in the subpoena response because he had asked whether he should search elsewhere at Mar-a-Lago, like Trump’s office, but was waved off. Corcoran’s notes also showed he told Trump he had to return all classified documents in his possession.
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