WASHINGTON – Lawyers for Donald Trump met with Justice Department officials on Monday as a decision nears on whether to bring criminal charges over the handling of classified documents at the former president’s Florida estate.
The Trump lawyers two weeks ago requested a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland to raise concerns about what they alleged was prosecutorial misconduct and overreach by the team led by special counsel Jack Smith. But a defense attorney meeting with Justice Department officials is also often used as an opportunity to try to persuade prosecutors against bringing charges in the final stages of an investigation.
It was not clear what was discussed during the meeting, but Trump, in a social media post and talk radio interview, signaled that he was prepared for the possibility that he would be charged and reiterated his attacks on the investigation.
A trio of Trump attorneys — James Trusty, John Rowley and Lindsey Halligan — exited the Justice Department headquarters in Washington on Monday morning after spending well over an hour inside. They got into a black sport utility vehicle and did not respond to reporters' questions.
Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco were not present for the meeting but special counsel Jack Smith was. The Justice Department had no comment on the meeting.
After the meeting ended, Trump posted on his Truth Social platform in capital letters: “How can DOJ possibly charge me, who did nothing wrong” when no other presidents have been charged. He referenced the investigation into his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton, which ended without criminal charges, and a separate ongoing probe into the presence of classified documents at an office and home of President Joe Biden. And he characterized it as a “witch hunt.”
He also called into the Todd Starnes radio show, where he confirmed the meeting with his lawyers and said, “Well, I can just say this: They did go in and they saw ’em and they said very unfair. No other president has ever been charged with anything like his.'"
The Trump investigation differs from both the Biden and Clinton probes, though, in that prosecutors for months have examined whether Trump or his representatives sought to obstruct their inquiry and their efforts to recover classified documents. After suspecting that not all classified documents had been turned over, the FBI in August obtained a search warrant and returned to Mar-a-Lago and recovered an additional 100 documents with classification markings.
The Mar-a-Lago investigation into the potential mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, with a charging decision likely coming soon. Prosecutors have placed a broad cross-section of witnesses, including lawyers for Trump and close aides, before a grand jury.
Trump's lawyers issued a letter to House lawmakers in April that laid out possible defenses and referred to the investigation as “misguided, politically infected, and severely botched.”
Besides the Mar-a-Lago investigation, Smith is leading a separate probe into efforts by Trump and his allies to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www/twitter.com/etuckerAP