Former President Donald Trump rang in the new year at Mar-a-Lago with a New Year’s Eve celebration. However, the Justice Department’s investigation into papers seized from his Florida vacation house continues.
As 2022 came to a close, Chief Judge Beryl Howell declined to punish Trump in contempt of court in a Dec. 9 hearing, instead requesting that the Justice Department and Trump’s staff work together to find a solution.
According to the DOJ, Trump continues to refuse to give over classified documents that the government thinks he still has in his possession.
Howell declined the DOJ’s request because she believes Trump’s lawyers are still trying to locate and turn over any missing papers. On December 7, it was reported that Trump attorneys found more classified documents in a storage container alongside swords and wrestling belts in West Palm Beach, Florida.
According to former Justice Department official and FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann, professing ignorance may not be a valid defense if the two parties cannot reach an agreement and the judge decides to reverse her ruling and punish Trump in contempt.
Furthermore, if Trump is charged with espionage or obstructing justice, his words at a weekend rally in Mesa, Arizona, in October could come back to haunt him, Weissmann added.
According to Weissmann, the federal government’s probe into the 45th president’s management of White House documents became more clear after that event. Investigators took the documents during a search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in August.
Trump’s Admission: “They should give me immediately back everything that they’ve taken from me because it’s mine, it’s mine. They took it from me — in the raid. They broke into my house,” Trump said during the rally. “I had a small number of boxes in storage.”
Why It Matters: “The trick is always how do you show that somebody like Donald Trump knew what was at Mar-a-Lago, and it wasn’t just his lawyers or underlings who knew the details,” Weissmann said, according to a report from the Washington Examiner. On Trump’s admission to owning the documents, Weissmann added: “those are incredibly damning statements that go directly to knowledge and intent.”