A federal judge declines Justice Department's request to hold Trump's team in contempt over classified documents
A federal judge Friday did not grant the Justice Department's request to hold the office of former President Donald Trump in contempt for failing to comply with a grand jury subpoena demanding the return of documents with classified markings, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The decision was made during a closed-door hearing at a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C.
The Justice Department declined comment.
Trump's attorneys had no comment, but a spokesperson for Trump said in a statement that the former president "and his counsel will continue to be transparent and cooperative, even in the face of the highly weaponized and corrupt witch-hunt from the Department of Justice."
The DOJ's contempt request, which was first reported by The Washington Post, came after Trump's lawyers recently discovered at least two documents with such markings in a storage unit in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The storage unit is not far from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, where the FBI executed a search warrant in August after obtaining information that Trump had held onto documents with classification markings even after getting hit with a grand jury subpoena for their return in May.
That search turned up over 100 documents with such markings, including some marked top secret, in a storage room in Mar-a-Lago and in Trump's office there.
After getting the subpoena, Trump's attorneys returned a number of documents — including some with classified markings — in early June, and told the Justice Department in a letter that all documents with such markings had been returned.
The new documents were found after Trump’s lawyers hired an outside firm to conduct searches last month at the storage facility and other locations.
After Trump left the White House, his office arranged with the federal General Services Administration to have six pallets of boxes moved from a storage facility in Virginia down to West Palm Beach and Mar-a-Lago in July of 2021, GSA emails previously obtained by NBC News show. The pallets were delivered in August of 2021, with four going to the storage facility and two going to Mar-a-Lago, the emails show.
The Justice Department has been conducting what it has described as an active criminal investigation into whether information involving national security was mishandled, as well as possible obstruction of justice.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, and claimed that he declassified the documents and that they were his personal property. Under federal law, official White House papers are federal property and must be handed over to the National Archives when a president leaves office.
Friday's hearing on the DOJ’s request, and the legal arguments underpinning it, was kept under wraps because it involved grand jury proceedings. Any orders from Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in the case, including any resulting from Friday's closed-door hearing, would likely be filed under seal as well.
NBC News was part of a press coalition that unsuccessfully sought access to the hearing. The coalition argued in a letter to Howell that the proceeding should be public, in part because lawyers for Trump and the government have already acknowledged in court filings that there is a pending grand jury action.
Trump lawyers Timothy Parlatore, James Trusty and Evan Corcoran were seen entering the judge's chambers on Friday around 2 p.m. ET, and they left the courthouse shortly before 3:30 p.m.
Corcoran drafted the June letter certifying all documents with classification markings had been returned, NBC News has previously reported.
The hearing comes one day after Trump's civil action demanding a court-appointed special master review the documents recovered by the feds in August was officially dismissed by a federal appeals court. That move allows DOJ investigators to finally review the 11,000 documents they recovered in August that didn't have classified markings.
The same court — 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — allowed the DOJ to review the over 100 documents that did have classified markings in October, overturning an earlier ruling by Aileen Cannon, a Florida federal court judge who was nominated by Trump.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com