Federal judge refuses to hold Trump in contempt over Mar-A-Lago records dispute

A federal judge has refused a request from Biden’s Justice Department to hold former President Trump in contempt amidst his dispute with the government over his retention of and alleged mishandling of classified records.

It’s a rare defeat for Biden’s Justice Department, which has racked up a series of court wins.

Trump scores legal victory

The judge in the case told the parties to settle the matter themselves at a Friday hearing, ABC News reported.

The government had asked for Trump to be held in contempt for refusing to provide a sworn declaration that all classified records have been returned, a request Trump’s lawyers have rejected as unreasonably broad, the Washington Post reported.

The Biden DOJ has repeatedly accused Trump of withholding government documents after one of his lawyers attested in June that a diligent search of Trump’s Mar-A-Lago property was completed. FBI agents later found a number of classified items during an unprecedented raid in August.

A team hired by Trump’s attorneys has since found two more classified documents at a West Palm Beach storage facility.

Setbacks for Trump

Biden’s Justice Department has taken an aggressive tack, dismissing Trump’s efforts to bring transparency to the records investigation as a dangerous attack on “national security,” even as the DOJ has leaked secrets from its probe to the media. For the most part, the DOJ has been winning in court.

A federal appeals court in September granted the DOJ access to the classified material after Judge Aileen Cannon appointed a “special master” to review it. Then, the same appeals court dismissed the special master altogether this month, leading Cannon to drop Trump’s case Monday.

Cannon was widely derided in the media for agreeing with Trump that the extraordinary circumstances of the case, a criminal investigation of a former president that led to the raid of his personal residence by his top political rival, called for special oversight.

At one point, leakers alleged to the press that Trump had taken nuclear secrets, leading to wild speculation that he wanted to sell defense information. But it was later reported that investigators believe Trump took White House records as personal trophies, not as part of some nefarious plot.

“Witch hunt”

The Biden administration has appointed a special counsel to investigate Trump, who is now a 2024 presidential candidate, over the records as well as his alleged role in the January 6th riot.

Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said that Trump is “the only one who stands in the way of the un-American weaponization of law enforcement,” echoing Trump’s complaints that the records probe is a “witch hunt” designed to kneecap his White House bid.

“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,” Cheung said.

“Hillary Clinton was allowed to delete and acid wash 33,000 emails after they were subpoenaed by Congress, yet absolutely nothing has happened to hold her accountable. If the Department of Justice can go after President Trump, they will surely come after any American who they disagree with.”