Biden Administration Starts Giving Evidence to Trump Team in Criminal Case

Biden Administration Starts Giving Evidence to Trump Team in Criminal Case
Former U.S. President Donald Trump gestures after delivering remarks at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Bedminster, N.J., on June 13, 2023. (Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber
6/22/2023
Updated:
6/22/2023
0:00

U.S. prosecutors have begun turning over evidence to former President Donald Trump’s legal team following his being charged with dozens of felony counts.

The first production of discovery materials include an FBI interview with Walt Nauta, a Trump aide who has also been charged with federal crimes, prosecutors said in a court filing entered late June 21.

The tranche was described as including documents obtained through subpoenas, evidence acquired through search warrants, transcripts of witness testimony to the grand jury that approved the charges, transcripts before a different grand jury in Washington, and interviews with witnesses conducted by law enforcement agents.

Producing discovery is a normal part of court cases as parties prepare for a trial.

Nauta’s June 2022 grand jury testimony was part of the first set of materials, as were copies of interviews Trump did with non-government entities, including a July 21, 2021, interview with an unidentified publisher and writer that was quoted in the indictment.

According to the government, Trump told the writer and publisher at the time that he possessed a plan to attack another country that was formulated by a senior military official, with the government indicating the official was Gen. Mark Milley.

Milley, at the time the nation’s top military officer, reportedly feared Trump might attack Iran and recommended he not do so.

But top military officials, including Milley, actually presented an attack plan, Trump was quoted as saying during the interview.

Trump suggested that the document was still classified. “As president I could have declassified it,” Trump said. “Now I can’t.”

The interview took place at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Trump has not testified before a grand jury, the government said.

A forthcoming tranche of discovery materials will include “a reproduction of ‘key’ documents and photographs,” according to prosecutors. A set to be delivered later consists of copies of surveillance footage the government obtained during its investigation.

Todd Blanche, a lawyer representing Trump, declined to comment on Thursday.

Nauta has not received any discovery because he has not been arraigned and because no lawyers representing him have entered an appearance in the case, according to the government. Once those steps are taken, Nauta will be provided with discovery, the government said.

A lawyer who has represented Nauta in the past declined to comment.

Trump was indicted on 37 felony charges earlier in June by a grand jury that was presented with evidence by special counsel Jack Smith, an appointee of Attorney General Merrick Garland. Trump is accused of violating federal law by failing to turn over documents marked classified and other sensitive materials after he left office, as well as obstructing the investigation into the alleged failure.

Nauta was accused of conspiring to obstruct justice by helping Trump conceal some of the materials from authorities.

Both defendants face decades in prison if convicted.

Walt Nauta, valet to former U.S. President Donald Trump and a co-defendant in federal charges filed against Trump, arrives at the Miami International Airport in Miami, Fla., on June 12, 2023. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Walt Nauta, valet to former U.S. President Donald Trump and a co-defendant in federal charges filed against Trump, arrives at the Miami International Airport in Miami, Fla., on June 12, 2023. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., on March 30, 2023. (Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., on March 30, 2023. (Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)

Some Documents Handed Over

Trump handed over some documents to the National Archives and Records Administration in January 2022. The archives referred the matter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) after discovering some of those documents had classification markings. FBI agents executed a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida later that year and found more materials marked classified.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and maintained that he declassified the materials before leaving office.

He has also pointed out that a number of other former top officials have possessed sensitive documents after leaving office but have not been prosecuted, including President Joe Biden.

Biden was found to have the materials before he became president. He has been cooperating with authorities, according to the DOJ.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump in the 2016 election, also was not charged despite being found to have mishandled classified documents.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, the Trump appointee overseeing the criminal case, recently set a trial date for August but legal experts say the case will likely not take place for some time as the court handles an expected flurry of motions, including motions to dismiss the case.

A call with the judge and the parties is slated to take place on Aug. 8.

Another judge this week ordered Trump and his lawyers not to disclose information from materials they receive in discovery. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who was appointed by other judges, said the defendants and their counsel must not share the materials with reporters, the public, or on social media without consent from prosecutors or approval from the court.

Violations can result in being held in contempt of the court or other punishment, Reinhart said.

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