Donald Trump was directly warned to comply with a subpoena from the Department of Justice or face an FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home, but his attorneys backed off because they feared an outburst from him.
Even Corcoran, his then-lead attorney in the classified documents case, told the former president in person in May 2022 that the FBI might obtain a search warrant for the estate if he didn’t voluntarily return the materials sought by the DOJ, but another attorney warned him not to push Trump to comply, reported ABC News.
“He’s just going to go ballistic,” that attorney said, according to Corcoran.
Corcoran recorded a series of voice memos — which special counsel Jack Smith has obtained and ABC News has reviewed — on his phone the following day that show how Trump allegedly tried to defy the federal subpoena and engage in what prosecutors have called a criminal conspiracy to hide classified materials from the FBI and his own attorney.
Trump replied with a remark that has been included in the indictment: “What happens if we just don’t respond at all or don’t play ball with them?”
Corcoran told the former president the FBI could seek a search warrant, which could then results in agents showing up at his home — but, according to the memos and the indictment, Trump repeatedly suggested they should not cooperate.
“The indictment says that although Corcoran — who ABC News believes to be ‘Attorney 1’ in the indictment — and [Jennifer] Little — believed to be ‘Attorney 2’ — ‘told Trump that they needed to search for documents that would be responsive to the subpoena and provide a certification that there had been compliance with the subpoena, Trump still insisted to them, ‘I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes,’ and, “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?'”
Corcoran’s recordings offer insight into how the documents ended up stashed in boxes at Mar-a-Lago and Trump’s understanding of the declassification process, and the former president’s habit of bringing newspapers, notes and classified documents to his White House residence to review.
“That’s the only time I could read something, and I had to read them so I could be ready for calls or meetings the next day,” Trump told Corcoran, according to the recordings.
Trump told his attorney that he made clear to anyone around him that “anything that comes into the residence should be declassified,” according to the recordings, but the ex-president told Corcoran that he wasn’t sure of any additional actions taken to officially declassify them.
“As for how classified documents ended up in boxes, Trump ‘had a lot of boxes’ in his bedroom, and when he was done reading a newspaper article or a classified document, he’d ‘throw them’ into one of the boxes, according to Corcoran,” ABC News reported.
Corcoran turned over the recordings to Smith’s office after a federal judge ordered him to do so, finding that the special counsel had shown that Trump had committed criminal violations by deliberately misleading his attorneys about the classified materials.