Shortly after learning that former President Donald J. Trump had been taped discussing what appeared to be classified material describing military options to confront Iran, federal prosecutors issued a subpoena to his lawyers requesting the return of all documents resembled the document he cited, two people familiar with the matter said Friday.
But Mr Trump’s legal team has informed the Justice Department that it has been unable to find any such documents in its possession, the people said. It’s unclear whether prosecutors were able to track down the document themselves, leaving open the possibility that the material remains at large or that the famously impetuous Mr. Trump misdescribed it on the recording.
The subpoena, issued in March, sought all documents related to General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Iran, including maps or invasion plans, according to those familiar with the matter. As part of their investigation, prosecutors asked witnesses whether Mr. Trump showed people a card he took with him when he left office that contains sensitive intelligence information.
The subpoena, previously reported by DailyExpertNews, cited General Milley as Mr Trump bringing up the classified document at a meeting as a way to refute what he viewed as criticisms from Mr Milley about military decisions related to Iran . The meeting, which took place in July 2021 at Mr. Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, NJ, was between Mr. Trump and two people who helped with a book being written by the last White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.
A small number of Mr Trump’s aides were also present, including Margo Martin, who routinely attended and recorded book interviews of Mr Trump, and Liz Harrington, the former president’s spokeswoman.
The subpoena appears to have been prompted by testimony Ms. Martin gave about the recording before a federal grand jury investigating the documents case, according to people familiar with the case. A similar subpoena for documents related to the Iran document was issued to at least one other person who was at the Bedminster meeting.
Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for Mr Trump, denounced what he said were conclusions based on “fake spots that were clearly partisan”.
During the investigation of Mr. Trump by the Justice Department and subsequently by special counsel, Jack Smith, prosecutors expressed concern that Mr. Trump had not fully complied with efforts to obtain all classified material in his possession. to find back.
A central part of their investigation is whether the former president obstructed the government’s repeated attempts to recover the material — first through a subpoena issued last May and then through a search warrant executed in August at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s office. private club and residence in Florida.
After the FBI descended on Mar-a-Lago and discovered about 100 classified documents that violated the subpoena, Trump’s lawyers conducted their own search of the property and other property associated with Mr. Trump. During those house searches at the end of last year, the lawyers found at least two documents with classification marks.
Before all these searches were carried out, Mr. Trump turned over two separate batches of classified materials to the administration. One batch was given to the National Archives in January 2022. The other was given to a federal prosecutor who visited Mar-a-Lago in June 2022 to gather everything they could in response to the subpoena they issued the previous month.
In the batch that went to the archives was one document on military options for Iran, said one of the people familiar with the matter. But it remained unclear whether that document was the same document Mr. Trump had mentioned in the recording.
Even if the administration is never able to find the document Mr. Trump discussed, his statements about the recording could harm him as Mr. Smith’s team closes in on the investigation and focuses on whether to press charges.
On the recording, Mr. Trump indicated he was aware of his inability to release the document because he had already left office, according to people familiar with the tape.
If that description turns out to be correct, it would undermine one of the main defenses Mr. Trump’s advisers have put forward in their attempt to justify why he was allowed to keep some of the administration’s most sensitive secrets after leaving the White House. to leave. They have argued that Mr. Trump, while still in office, released all the material he took with him when he left.