In a prior ruling, federal Judge Beryl Howell concluded there was “sufficient evidence” presented to indicate various potentially serious acts knowingly committed by Donald Trump, as recapped in a new report from The New York Times.
That list of actions includes evident deception to his legal team in the classified documents probe and intentional harboring of some of the materials that have become the flashpoint in that same criminal investigation, which continues under the leadership of Special Counsel Jack Smith. According to what is evidently a secondhand account of Howell’s conclusions that was shared by the Times, the judge also found further “evidence demonstrates that the former president willfully sought to retain classified documents when he was not authorized to do so, and knew it.” Although she was not ruling in the context of proposed or filed criminal charges against Trump, her findings are, of course, a nonetheless significant sign of the kind of case that prosecutors are building that could result in even more charges against the ex-president.
Obstruction and what a source for the Times called “unauthorized retention of national defense information” were both implicated in Howell’s findings. At the time, she was deciding on whether to approve further questioning of Trump’s lawyer Evan Corcoran by prosecutors, and her comments were relevant in establishing the application of the crime-fraud exception, which is a carve-out from attorney-client privilege for circumstances in which criminal activity is suspected. It doesn’t appear that it’s Corcoran himself who is suspected of knowingly furthering such criminal acts. Rather, the matter traces back to Trump.
The Times also said that there were apparently further classified materials actually found in a bedroom for Trump at Mar-a-Lago during the third-party searches for additional documents that were already known to have been conducted. It’s amid those same searches when a small cache of documents was uncovered in an offsite storage facility in southern Florida tied to the former president’s team. Prosecutors had worried even after the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago about the possibility that Trump had more documents.