Trump lawyers in court for sealed hearing in Mar-a-Lago case

FILE - Former President Donald Trump announces a third run for president as he speaks at...
FILE - Former President Donald Trump announces a third run for president as he speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Nov. 15, 2022.(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 11:25 AM HST|Updated: Dec. 9, 2022 at 1:47 PM HST
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawyers for Donald Trump were in court Friday for sealed arguments as part of the ongoing investigation into the presence of classified information at the former president’s Florida estate.

The proceedings were taking place before U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, the chief judge of the federal court in the District of Columbia. Defense lawyers were seen entering the courtroom around 2 p.m. and left more than an hour later without addressing reporters.

A lawyer for The Associated Press and other news organizations had submitted a letter earlier Friday requesting media access to the hearing, but despite that, it took place entirely behind closed doors.

Court spokeswoman Lisa Klem said in a statement that the hearing concerned “an ongoing and sealed grand jury matter” that remains under seal.

It was not immediately clear what the outcome of the proceedings were. The Washington Post, relying on anonymous sources, reported on Thursday that the Justice Department had earlier asked Howell to hold Trump’s office in contempt for failure to fully comply with a May subpoena that sought the return of classified documents in his possession. The department also wants the Trump team to appoint a custodian of records who could attest that all classified documents have been returned, according to the Post.

Lawyers for Trump declined to comment ahead of the hearing. A Justice Department spokesman also did not return a phone message seeking comment Friday afternoon.

The roughly 100 documents marked as classified that the FBI took from Mar-a-Lago in August were on top of 37 documents bearing classification markings that Trump lawyers retrieved from the home during a June visit. In addition, 15 boxes containing about 184 classified documents were recovered in January by the National Archives and Records Administration.

The possibility that the Justice Department had not yet recovered all classified materials has existed for months.

The FBI’s August search of the home came after investigators developed evidence indicating that additional sensitive documents remained there, even though Trump representatives had certified in June that all classified documents requested in a Justice Department subpoena had been located and returned.

The Trump lawyer who made that representation and who was serving as the custodian of his records at the time, Christina Bobb, was interviewed by the FBI in October. She told investigators that she had not drafted the letter but that another Trump lawyer who she said actually prepared it had asked her to sign it in her role as a designated custodian of Trump’s records, a person familiar with her account has told AP.

The Post reported earlier this week that two additional documents with classification markings were found during a recent search of a storage unit in West Palm Beach, Florida that was arranged by Trump’s lawyers. Those items were then turned over to the FBI.