‘Obstruction & Espionage Act’: Top Legal Expert Says Trump Attorney’s Notes Show ‘Evidence of Willfulness’
Dept. of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith has struck “gold” after obtaining the contemporaneous notes of a Trump attorney who counseled the ex-president on his possibly unlawful removal, retention, and refusal to return hundreds of classified documents from the White House, says a top legal expert and former Special Counsel.
“Special Counsel Smith strikes gold,” tweeted NYU School of Law professor of law Ryan Goodman, the founding co-editor-in-chief of Just Security, an NYU website on U.S. national security law and policy.
Goodman pointed to a CNN article titled, “Trump’s attorney took notes that say the former president wanted to fight subpoena for classified docs.”
“Donald Trump asked whether he could push back against Justice Department efforts last year to recover any classified documents still in his possession during conversations with his lawyer over compliance with a federal subpoena, according to multiple sources familiar with notes taken by his lawyer and turned over to investigators,” CNN reported.
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“Special counsel Jack Smith has obtained dozens of pages of notes that Trump’s attorney Evan Corcoran took last spring, memorializing conversations with his client after the former president received the subpoena last May and before a key meeting with the Justice Department a few weeks later when Trump’s legal team said they had turned over all classified records they could find, the sources told CNN.”
Goodman highlights aspects of the reporting. He writes: “Trump’s team ‘surprised about the level of detail,'” and “Obtains ‘dozens of pages of notes’ of Trump attorney ‘memorializing conversations with his client.'”
“My take,” he summarizes, “Contains evidence of obstruction & Espionage Act.”
Goodman continues, citing CNN, and says, “the notes show over the course of conversations with Trump, ‘the attorney explained that the subpoena meant Trump would need to return all records.'”
“As [former U.S. Attorney Barb McQuade] explained with The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell’s “scoop, that is evidence of willfulness,” Goodman says.
He then points to this sentence from CNN: “Trump, when informed by his lawyer about the subpoena and how he should respond, asked if there was any way to fight it.”
Goodman says that “is evidence of Espionage Act ‘willful retention,’ 18 USC 793(e), and Obstruction, 18 USC 1519.”
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Double Bombshell: Mark Meadows and Trump’s Secret Service Agents Have Testified, NYT Reports
The New York Times late Tuesday afternoon published two separate reports revealing previously unknown details from Special Counsel Jack Smith’s double-pronged investigation into Donald Trump’s likely unlawful actions, including that investigators have interviewed or subpoenaed approximately two dozen people who are among those who know the ex-president best: Mark Meadows, Trump’s final White House Chief of Staff, and “more than 20” of the ex-president’s Secret Service agents.
The Times, pointing to the “surprise revelation” that a federal grand jury has been convened in Florida, reports Meadows has testified before the grand jury, presumably in Washington, D.C. The 20 or more members of the ex-president’s Secret Service detail have either testified before the D.C. grand jury or been subpoenaed to do so.
Meadows is a “key witness” who allegedly was intimately aware or involved in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and he is believed to also have knowledge of the ex-president’s likely unlawful handling of classified and top secret documents.
Suggesting there could be “unknown complexities” with the revelation of a Florida grand jury, The Times reports Special Counsel Jack Smith’s D.C. grand jury appears to have stopped hearing testimony recently from witnesses, while the one in the Sunshine State “began hearing evidence last month,” but has seen “only a handful of witnesses.”
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Based on “people familiar with the matter,” The Times explains, “if both grand juries are in operation, it suggests that prosecutors are considering bringing charges in both Washington and Florida. It is possible that Mr. Trump could be charged in one jurisdiction while other people involved in the case are charged in the other.”
“But if only the Florida grand jury is currently hearing testimony, it suggests two possibilities,” The Times explains. “One is that the investigation in Washington is largely complete and that prosecutors are now poised to make a decision about bringing charges there while still weighing other potential indictments in Florida.”
Other possibilities are that the Special Counsel believes Florida is the proper venue to file charges against Trump, in the documents probe, or even that the Florida grand jury was convened to accommodate “local witnesses.”
But former Deputy Asst. Attorney General Harry Litman told MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace Tuesday that if the Special Counsel files charges in the wrong venue, the entire case “can go away” and cannot be retried.
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“I think Smith has made all his decisions,” Litman added. “The fact that there was this meeting yesterday, only happens when everything’s final. I think there’s a draft indictment and everything, but a very important strategic decision is venue, and I think that they’re pursuing something separate in the Southern District of Florida.”
Meanwhile, The Times notes that “Mr. Meadows has kept largely out of sight, and some of Mr. Trump’s advisers believe he could be a significant witness in the inquiries.” Apparently, even Trump has “at times asked aides questions about how Mr. Meadows is doing, according to a person familiar with the remarks.”
Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger, played coy when asked about his client’s possible grand jury testimony. Terwilliger told The Times, “Without commenting on whether or not Mr. Meadows has testified before the grand jury or in any other proceeding, Mr. Meadows has maintained a commitment to tell the truth where he has a legal obligation to do so.”
In addition to his knowledge, if not participation in efforts to overturn the election, and his knowledge of Trump’s mishandling and possible attempts to obstruct the Dept. of Justice’s investigation into the classified documents, Meadows “tangentially” is involved in a meeting that Special Counsel Smith now has recorded audio of. Although he was not present, that meeting was about Meadows’ book. In the audio, Trump allegedly made clear he knew the highly-classified Pentagon document had not been declassified, shattering his stated defense, and he allegedly said he wanted to share it, which could lead to more legal troubles for him.
Andrew Weissmann, a former top DOJ official, tweeted in response to the Times’ story on Meadows, “Did he plead or was he given immunity?”
Professor of law at NYU Law, Ryan Goodman, a former Special Counsel for the Dept. of Defense, served up this equation:
“Put these 2 things together and what do you have? 1) Meadows ‘has testified before a federal grand jury…in the investigations being led by the special counsel’s office’! 2) Meadow’s actions seem to be kept secret from Trump team! Answer: A cooperator?”
Classified Pentagon ‘War Plans’ Document Trump Bragged About in Audio Recording Is Missing: Report
Donald Trump’s legal team has been unable to locate the classified Pentagon document detailing a possible attack on Iran the ex-president was recorded at his Bedminster golf resort in 2021 bragging he had held onto.
“Attorneys for Donald Trump turned over material in mid-March in response to a federal subpoena related to a classified US military document described by the former president on tape in 2021 but were unable to find the document itself, two sources tell CNN,” the network reported Friday. “Prosecutors issued the subpoena shortly after asking a Trump aide before a federal grand jury about the audio recording of a July 2021 meeting at Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.”
In that audio recording Trump allegedly says he wished he could show the document, but acknowledges it is classified and therefore he is not allowed to share it. Attendees in that 2021 meeting reportedly did not have clearance to even know about the existence of the document.
“Prosecutors sought ‘any and all’ documents and materials related to Mark Milley, Trump’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Iran, including maps or invasion plans, the sources say. A similar subpoena was sent to at least one other attendee of the meeting, another source tells CNN.”
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The Pentagon appears greatly concerned about the document, which legal experts have referred to as “war plans.”
CNN adds that its “sources say prosecutors made clear to Trump’s attorneys after issuing the subpoena that they specifically wanted the Iran document he talked about on tape as well as any material referencing classified information – like meeting notes, audio recordings or copies of the document – that may still be Trump’s possession.”
CNN also reports both DOJ and the Special Counsel’s office have expressed concerns Trump still has not returned all classified documents he unlawfully removed from the White House.
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Former DOJ Official Says Audio of Trump Admitting to Keeping ‘War Plans’ Makes it ‘Inconceivable’ He Will Not Be Charged
A former top U.S. Dept. of Justice official says it is “inconceivable” that Donald Trump will not be charged, based on reports Special Counsel Jack Smith has an audio recording of the ex-president admitting he was in possession of a classified Pentagon document detailing a possible attack on Iran.
“I think if this audio tape exists, this is not a question of if there are going to be charges. It’s just a question of when,” announced NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst Andrew Weissmann, the well-known former FBI General Counsel who worked at DOJ for two decades.
Importantly, Weissmann, who made his remarks on MSNBC Thursday, notes that the document in question, if it is as described, contains “war plans.”
“And the proof that we have learned just publicly is so strong. And Jack Smith is such a competent and aggressive prosecutor. It is inconceivable to me that this would not be charged, and having a tape recording of the prospective defendant admitting his possession of a classified document that he had no right to have,” Weissmann says.
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“And not just any classified document. I think it’s really important to remember that what he talks about reportedly, is a classified document involving something that is unbelievably sensitive, which is war plans of the United States against another country.”
Where news broke Wednesday NYU Law professor of law Ryan Goodman, a former U.S. Dept. of Defense Special Counsel, wrote: “War plans are among the most highly classified documents. Puts pressure on DOJ to indict, and a jury to convict.”
Some say, based on the audio, Trump might have been holding the document as he was being recorded at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf resort, allegedly discussing it.
“Make no mistake. This is squarely an Espionage Act case,” Goodman also said, calling the news a “bombshell.”
Explaining the gravity of the document, Weissmann notes, “this is not just taking love letters of Kim Jong Un or salacious material about the president in France. This is exactly what the Department of Justice and the intelligence community is worried about.”
Continuing to explain just how serious this is, Weissmann served up the ground rules.
“Let’s remember government documents, whether classified or not, belong to the government. They are not to be retained by a private citizen. And the former president is a private citizen. So for instance, when I was in the Department of Justice, the number of documents I could take when I left the Department of Justice would be zero. So you’re not supposed to have that possession of government documents. If they are classified, there can be an additional type of charge, but it’s not required that that material be classified or classified at a particular level.”
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“What you’re looking at here is whether the person either knowingly took the documents or knowingly retained the documents. Important this tape recording, if it exists, as recorded, is that you’ve got Donald Trump admitting that he has in his possession a classified document – doesn’t matter if it’s Secret, Top Secret, it’s classified, that itself is a crime.”
And then finally, with respect to dissemination, the recording is that there does appear to be at least some dissemination of the information because Donald Trump, although he doesn’t turn the document over or quote from it, he does talk about what is in there. In other words, the reason we’re all talking about the fact that involves war plans involving Iran is because reportedly that is what Donald Trump said was in the document. If that proves out, that is a form of dissemination.”
On social media later Thursday, Weissman tweeted, “Days, not months…” suggesting he believes an indictment of Trump would be coming sooner rather than later.
Watch Weissmann below or at this link.
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