(CNN) — Donald Trump asked if he could reject the Justice Department’s efforts last year to recover any classified documents still in his possession during talks with his attorney about complying with a federal subpoena, according to multiple sources familiar with the notes taken by his attorney. attorney and handed over to investigators.
Special counsel Jack Smith obtained dozens of pages of notes that Trump’s lawyer Evan Corcoran took last spring, recording conversations with his client after the former president received the subpoena last May and before a key meeting with the Justice Department a few weeks later, when Trump’s legal team said it had turned over all the classified records they could find, sources told CNN.
The notes offer more insight into Trump’s reasoning and actions during a critical period, as the special counsel conducts his criminal investigation into Trump’s handling of classified material and the possibility that he obstructed the investigation.
Some sources close to the former president say he merely asked Corcoran for legal advice when he asked if they could reject the subpoena. However, Trump has offered different explanations for why he did not return all of the classified documents in a timely manner. Trump has said that he had the “absolute right” to take the documents as recently as this month on a CNN forum.
Smith obtained the notes after an extraordinary court fight that ended when a federal judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to suggest that Trump used his lawyer to further a crime. That allowed prosecutors to break attorney-client privilege and obtain Corcoran’s notes and additional grand jury testimony.
CNN reached out to a Trump spokesperson for comment. Corcoran’s attorney and the special counsel’s office declined to comment.
A source described Corcoran’s notes as “too detailed”. Another source close to Trump’s legal team said some of them were surprised by the level of detail in Corcoran’s notes. That source said several sets of notes were provided to prosecutors and were significantly redacted to shield investigators from Corcoran’s legal opinions contained in the notes.
Multiple sources said the notes reveal how Trump, when briefed on the subpoena and how he should respond by his lawyer, asked if there was any way to contest it. Some contents of the notes were first published by The Guardian.
The notes obtained by the Justice Department reflect conversations between Corcoran and Trump after May 11 and through June 3, 2022, in which the lawyer explained that the subpoena meant that Trump would have to return to the government all records marked as classified, the sources said.
At the time, federal officials had spent months trying to recover classified and presidential records taken by Trump after his departure from the White House.
In response to the subpoena, Corcoran searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida for classified documents. Corcoran told the Justice Department in June that he believed all the White House records were in a warehouse and nowhere else at the resort, and said he had returned all the records he found to the federal government.
The sources said the notes indicate that Trump adviser Walt Nauta opened the warehouse where the documents were being kept so Corcoran could conduct his search. Nauta, who served as Trump’s valet at the White House and now works as his bodyguard, offered to help, but Corcoran refused, according to the notes, the sources said.
CNN has reached out to Nauta’s attorney for comment.
Corcoran’s notes do not explain how the FBI was able to find hundreds of additional classified records in the property’s court-sanctioned search, including at Trump’s office at the resort in August 2022, according to one of the sources.
CNN previously reported that prosecutors had asked for answers about why Nauta was seen on surveillance footage of Mar-a-Lago removing boxes from the warehouse before and after the May subpoena, and that he had said in an interview with investigators. that it had been by order of Trump.
Tim Parlatore, a former Trump attorney, told CNN in an interview Saturday that he doesn’t believe Nauta did anything wrong, but said Nauta may have given investigators “inaccurate statements.”
“The fact that someone is moving boxes is not evidence of obstruction, but evidence that they have a running business…because this is during the period when you should be reviewing the documents anyway to determine what is personal and what is it’s presidential as part of the Presidential Records Act. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Parlatore said.
Although Trump’s legal team and Corcoran sought to prevent Corcoran from being forced to provide further evidence, a federal judge who reviewed the matter determined that it was Trump, not the lawyer, who may have committed a crime.
Corcoran had drafted a statement in June confirming that Trump’s team had conducted a “diligent search” for the boxes moved from the White House to Florida and that all classified documents had been returned. Christina Bobb, the attorney who signed the letter, added the caveat “to the best of my knowledge.”