Former President Donald Trump's attorney downplayed a folder marked classified that was found in his bedroom, claiming that he merely used it to help him sleep.
Trump attorney Timothy Parlatore told CNN on Sunday that the former president's legal team completed its searches for classified material on his properties and turned over an empty folder marked "Classified Evening Summary," which was found in Trump's bedroom, in response to a subpoena.
Parlatore told CNN that Trump used the folder to block a light on his phone, calling it one of the more "humorous" aspects of the investigation.
"He has one of those landline telephones next to his bed, and it has a blue light on it, and it keeps him up at night. So he took the manilla folder and put it over so it would keep the light down so he could sleep at night," Parlatore said. "It's just this folder. It says 'Classified Evening Summary' on it. It's not a classification marking. It's not anything that is controlled in any way. There is nothing illegal about it there's nothing in it. And when DOJ found out about it, they went crazy. They actually gave me a subpoena that said give us over this empty folder that means nothing."
"Now the president has to find a different way to keep the blue light out of his eyes," he added.
The DOJ is investigating classified materials found at Trump's residence at Mar-a-Lago that were found during an FBI search after the former president's lawyers affirmed that he had turned over all classified materials in response to a grand jury subpoena. Parlatore during the interview pushed back on the fact that Trump failed to cooperate with the DOJ in turning over the documents, a stark contrast from how President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence handled classified documents that were found in their possession.
"From the beginning, he has tried to cooperate," Parlatore insisted. "DOJ has taken really an adversarial position on this where as much as we want to cooperate with them, they would rather make this into an adversarial fight and try to make it into a criminal case. Had they handled it appropriately from the beginning… this all would have been avoided. A lot of what you have here is an appearance of noncompliance, which is created by DOJ in the matter in which they have handled this."
Legal experts pushed back on Parlatore's argument.
"This is a really weak defense," wrote national security attorney Bradley Moss.
"I've dealt with this attorney. Defeated him. Partisan to the core. Chastised by federal judge for his behavior. Doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to classified info. Very typical Trump attorney," tweeted national security attorney Mark Zaid.
But Zaid stressed that "as STUPID as this explanation is," the folder in question is not classified.
"If there is no classified doc within, folder itself is unclassified," he explained.
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The latest search for classified materials comes as special counsel Jack Smith appears to be "moving aggressively" in the DOJ's probes of Trump, according to The New York Times.
Smith's team recently hauled Trump attorney Evan Corcoran before a grand jury and have interviewed at least one other Trump attorney in connection with the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, according to the report. The "intensified pace" of the probe appears to signal Smith's desire to wrap up before the 2024 campaign gets underway, potentially by summer, according to the Times.
Smith's probe into the documents appears wider than just Trump's post-presidential actions. Prosecutors have interviewed people in connection with how Trump handled classified material at the White House, perhaps to establish a pattern of behavior by Trump related to "how he handled secret information he was provided about foreign countries and how he treated presidential documents generally," according to the report.
Trump was known to frequently rip up pieces of paper and at times even threw documents in the toilets, according to the Times. Some aides were routinely tasked with putting the documents back together and preserving them as required by federal law.
Trump's attorneys have increasingly drawn scrutiny from prosecutors. Along with Corcoran, prosecutors have twice interviewed Trump attorney Christina Bobb, who signed a document affirming that Trump had handed over all classified materials prior to the August FBI search. The DOJ has also contacted Trump attorney Alina Habba, who signed a document in another case saying that she searched Trump's office and residence in May. Prosecutors are also looking to question former Trump attorney Alex Cannon, who urged Trump to turn over documents to the National Archives.
"I've never seen anything like it," Chuck Rosenberg, a former senior FBI official and U.S. attorney, told the Times. "It's just a whirling dust cloud, and everyone who gets near it gets covered in grime."
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