We all recall Trump’s wailing about “beautiful Mar-a-Lago” being “raided” by the FBI as if such a thing was inconceivable, but it turns out that Trump was specifically told to expect it.
In May of last year, the Justice Department issued its grand jury subpoena to Trump demanding a return of all classified documents in his possession at Mar-a-Lago.
The subpoena itself alerted Trump to the fact that the federal government, including the FBI (since DOJ obtained the subpoena), knew that Trump had classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.
Today, new reporting comes from ABC News that unequivocally shows that Trump’s then-lead attorney on the matter, Evan Corcoran, specifically warned Trump about his risk, in person, at Mar-a-Lago.
Corcoran’s own contemporaneous audio notes record that he made it crystal clear to Trump that Trump had to fully comply with the subpoena.
And, even more importantly, Corcoran told Trump that if he did not fully comply, the FBI might search Mar-a-Lago itself, in its entirety, and the FBI would take the records themselves.
Only minutes later, another Trump attorney warned Corcoran that if he pushed Trump too hard on the subpoena, Trump “would just go ballistic.”
To be clear, Corcoran did not record himself telling Trump about the possibility of an FBI search (pursuant to a warrant), but he made an audio record to himself, with a date stamp, as attorneys often do, to protect themselves in case a client claims that he wasn’t informed of something.
The specific warning makes some of Trump’s previous statements ring a lot more hollow (not that they were ever persuasive), but as Al Jazeera reported at the time:
“Former US President Donald Trump has slammed the FBI’s raid on his Florida home as a ‘travesty of justice’ as he made his first public appearance since the August 8 search.”
“Addressing supporters at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, Trump said the raid was an ‘egregious abuse of the law’ that was going to produce ‘a backlash the likes of which nobody has ever seen’.”
He was specifically told that this was exactly what would happen if he didn’t comply with the subpoena.
As usual, Trump has no one but himself to blame.
But the recordings play an important evidentiary role for Jack Smith because, according to Smith’s theory of the case, it was Corcoran’s specific warning that caused Trump to start lying to his attorneys about the documents.
From ABC News’s report:
“Corcoran provided special counsel Smith’s team with his recordings after, as previously reported by ABC News, the now-former chief judge of the federal court in Washington ordered him to do so, finding that Smith’s office had made a ‘prima facie showing that the former president had committed criminal violations’ by deliberately misleading his attorneys about his handling of classified materials, sources familiar with the matter said at the time.”
Two weeks after delivering his specific warning, Corcoran and another attorney searched Mar-a-Lago’s basement and found 38 boxes that contained classified material.
Corcoran turned those boxes over to the FBI and affirmed that he did not know of any remaining boxes.
Of course, that is why the FBI applied for the search warrant. They knew damned well there were more boxes. Indeed, there were 102 more boxes.
So when Trump goes to trial on the case of the file and faces statements he made, such as characterizing the FBI move as a “shocking BREAK-IN,” with “no way to justify” … Smith now merely needs to play Corcoran’s contemporaneous audio notes.
Report continues below tweet:
recurrent theme: people who deal with Trump know they better have proof because he’ll break law then deny and lie. (Raffensberger, Cohen, Comey) Corcoran made a contemporaneous series of voice memos to memorialize the exchanges. Now they’re solid evidence. https://t.co/QOR8nBuwLE
— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) September 6, 2023
The fact remains, as we all know, Trump knew he was holding “the” most classified files in existence.
He had U.S. war plans for Iran. How much would those plans be worth to Saudi Arabia? (No, there is no accusation that the disgraced former president sold the plans, but it shows just how dangerous it was for him to hold such plans in the first place.)
And he wasn’t going to give them up until someone took them back and arrested him. Jack Smith can prove it.
This column is based on original reporting by Katherine Faulders and Michael Levine of ABC News.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter (X) @JasonMiciak.
Editor’s note: This is an opinion column that solely reflects the opinions of the author.