Prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ) have asked a federal judge to hold the office of former president Donald Trump in contempt of court.
The plea comes after a DOJ subpoena earlier this year demanding that Trump’s team hand over all documents marked classified, which they have repeatedly failed to do, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Trump spokesman Steven Cheung condemned the DOJ’s maneuver as “a political witch hunt unlike anything like this country has ever seen,” the Post reports.
Trump’s legal team had assured federal prosecutors back in June 2022 that a thorough sweep of such papers had been conducted at the former president’s residence at Mar-a-Lago. However, subsequent searched by the FBI have reportedly found this not to be the case.
A core disagreement between the Trump camp and DOJ centers on the former’s refusal to appoint a “custodian of records” who is empowered to attest that all the documents in question have been properly returned.
Trump’s team has insisted that forcing a lawyer to make such an attestation is unreasonable given the number of documents involved, as well as the fact that the former president owns several properties.
Trump’s own lawyers are also allegedly weary of trusting their boss, two people familiar with the matter told the Post. Some lawyers on the Trump team are reportedly hesitant of making any claims Trump has communicated with them under oath.
“In the normal course of business, if you’re a real business, you have records and you have custodians of those records that you can call on,” Stephen Ryan, a criminal defense attorney told the Post. However, because the Trump team has yet to appoint a custodian, “The department is in effect asking for something that doesn’t exist,” Ryan said. “This is an extraordinary problem that is factually relatively unique.”
According to the Post’s sources, presiding judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court has yet to rule on the matter.