President Trump’s legal team again turned to Congress in an ongoing criminal investigation, penning a letter to the House Intelligence Committee asking it to “formalize procedures for investigations” that would make such matters civil rather than criminal cases.
The 10-page letter to Chair Mike Turner (R-Ohio) obtained by The Hill suggests the investigation into Trump should not face criminal charges in connection with the case; it lays out three pathways for committee involvement in the matter and asks for a “legislative solution.”
“The DOJ should be ordered to stand down, and the intelligence community should instead conduct an appropriate investigation and provide a full report to this Committee, as well as your counterparts in the Senate,” Trump attorneys Timothy Parlatore, John Rowley, Jim Trusty and Lindsey Halligan wrote in the letter.
“A legislative solution by Congress is required to prevent the DOJ from continuing to conduct ham-handed criminal investigations of matters that are not inherently criminal.”
The contents of the letter were first reported by CNN, and the correspondence was also sent to congressional leaders and other leaders of the intelligence committees in both chambers.
The letter focuses mainly on Trump’s actions ahead of the return of some 15 boxes of White House records. While those boxes contained 184 classified documents, it was the back-and-forth with Trump and his legal team after they were turned over that spurred the DOJ to issue a subpoena and eventually secure a warrant to search the property.
While that warrant did list the Espionage Act as a possible charge that could result from retaining the documents, it also noted the potential for obstruction of justice charges stemming from the search, a nod to the months-long battle and the difficulty of recovering the documents once Trump was notified.
Trump’s legal team largely blames the National Archives (NARA) and the Government Services Administration (GSA) for removing documents from the White House and sending them to Florida, arguing that while Trump’s predecessors “had over four years to prepare for their departure upon completion of their second term, President Trump had a much shorter time to wind up his administration.”
The letter says GSA and other staffers who packed the boxes are responsible for a “stark change” from past processes.
NARA contested that description later Thursday, saying its support was “logical in nature and did not involve providing records management guidance,” and noted they provided Trump the same services as past presidents.
Trump’s team went on to say the former president planned to personally review the boxes before they were sent to NARA but “due to other demands on his time, President Trump afterward directed his staff to ship the boxes to NARA without any review by him or his staff.”
The letter does not mention other reported steps Trump took in the saga, including those detailed in an article from The Washington Post indicating the former president himself packed the first 15 boxes handed over to the Archives and that he directed an attorney to say all requested materials had been returned — a request the attorney Alex Cannon declined.
According to Trump’s legal team, the first batch of files given to NARA included “all manner of documents from the White House.”
While the classified documents themselves had been removed, “the placeholder inserts refer to briefings for phone calls with foreign leaders that were located near the schedule for those calls.”
The letter to House Intelligence comes after congressional leaders scored a victory with the Justice Department, with leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee becoming increasingly vocal about the need to review the documents and intelligence recovered from both Trump and President Biden’s homes.
Trump’s team casts the letter as a way to provide the committee with “information that we suspect the DOJ has not disclosed.”
The letter takes numerous shots at DOJ and NARA, accusing both of politicization and arguing that the Justice Department rushed its process with Trump’s legal team.
“The DOJ chose not to work cooperatively [with] President Trump’s team and instead chose to fuel the enthusiasm though [sic] the inappropriate use of criminal investigative tools such as a grand jury subpoena on May 11 and a search warrant on August 8,” Trump’s attorneys state.
The Aug. 8, 2022, search came more than a year and a half after Trump left office.
In an interview with The Hill, Parlatore said the request for standardizing investigations into document spillage was needed after several former executives were found to have left office with some classified records. However, no other situation appears close to having the 300 documents found among Trump’s belongings.
He said the Office of the Director of National Intelligence should take charge in such instances, calling the packout procedure during a transition “flawed across administrations.”
“I’m saying the legislative solution is to fix the White House document handling procedures and fix the Presidential Records Act procedures so that this never happens again,” Parlatore said, adding that anything specific to the investigation into Trump led by special counsel Jack Smith would be “a step too far.”
During an appearance on Fox News on Thursday morning, Turner noted the panel had spoken with Archives about the handling of records.
“Our committee has already been looking at this issue on the misuse of classified documents. We had the archivists into our committee to testify, and they actually tested that every administration since Reagan has delivered to them boxes of a mixture of classified and declassified documents — unclassified documents — that were mixed together,” he told the network’s Maria Bartiromo.
“There’s been mishandling with a history that goes all the way back to the Reagan Administration. We’re looking at how do we change the laws, how do we change the rules, and how do we address this so it doesn’t affect future administrations, and it certainly shouldn’t affect these two.”
This story was updated at 5:24 pm ET.
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