A federal judge on Friday declined a request from the Justice Department to hold members of former President Donald Trump’s legal team or the ex-president himself in contempt of court for allegedly not turning over classified documents from his White House tenure, according to multiple reports.
DC District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell ordered Trump’s lawyers and the DOJ to resolve the dispute among themselves following a closed-door hearing that lasted more than an hour Friday afternoon, according to ABC News.
The DOJ sought the contempt charge against Trump, 76, and his lawyers for purported noncompliance with a May subpoena demanding that sensitive material be returned to the federal government.
“The President and his counsel will continue to be transparent and cooperative, even in the face of the highly weaponized and corrupt witch-hunt from the Department of ‘Justice,’” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement Friday.
“If the Department of ‘Justice’ can go after President Trump, they will surely come after any American who they disagree with,” he added. “President Trump is the only one who stands in the way of the un-American weaponization of law enforcement.”
Lawyers for Trump have recently ramped up efforts to round up any outstanding secret documents, according to reports.
At least two documents marked as classified were found by Trump’s team while searching a storage facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. late last month, according to multiple reports earlier this week. Those papers were later handed over to the FBI.
But a key area of disagreement between the DOJ and lawyers for Trump continues to be the refusal by the former president’s legal team to designate a custodian of records to attest that all classified materials have been returned to the National Archives, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
The DOJ is investigating whether Trump broke the law by retaining US government records, some marked as top secret, after leaving office. So far, the government has reportedly tracked down hundreds of classified documents Trump held onto after his presidency ended in January 2021.