Top Trump adviser granted immunity for testifying in Mar-a-Lago papers case

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Testimony from top adviser Kash Patel will come after Donald Trump granted limited immunity from prosecution to federal prosecutors probing the unauthorized retention of highly sensitive government documents at his Mar-a-Lago property, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

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Immunity – a powerful tool that compels witnesses to testify on the promise that they will not be prosecuted for their statements or information derived from their statements – takes effect on November 2 and ends on November 2 after their testimony for criminal investigation. Indicates importance.

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Sources said the Justice Department’s interest with Patel has centered on his claims that documents found at Mar-a-Lago were declassified, how the documents on the property ended up, and that Trump’s aides and lawyers have responded to requests for his return. How did you respond, the sources said. ,

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The positioning of the documents is important because if prosecutors can prove that the people seized by the FBI in August were not declassified, it could strengthen a potentially impediment case, which Trump said was not the case for the claims. used as an excuse why they had not returned the record. Summons.

Advisers such as Trump and Patel have repeatedly claimed since the Mar-a-Lago search that the confiscated documents were declassified, although no such evidence has emerged and Trump’s lawyers have denied the claim in court filings. is not repeated, where they may face punishment for lying.

But the Justice Department’s focus on declassification suggests that federal prosecutors consider it relevant to an investigation into Trump’s retention of documents on the Florida property, as well as whether Patel himself intended to obstruct the investigation or if his claims were false. .

As Patel is a close adviser to Trump – he maintains a personal relationship with the former president – ​​who was also appointed as one of his representatives to the National Archives, the Justice Department is expected to Ask about the circumstances behind the documents in March-a-Lago.

The Guardian was first to report that the Justice Department was considering granting immunity to Patel on Wednesday morning. The immunity order, confirmed by the Wall Street Journal, was transmitted to Patel’s lawyers hours later.

The push to secure Patel’s testimony intensified when he was called to testify before a federal grand jury in Washington earlier this month after he resisted returning some of the records to Trump’s government documents and documents. Heard of evidence about possible obstruction.

Sources said Patel answered a number of questions on his Fifth Amendment against self-blame, though the grounds for some were unclear; Even if the documents are not declassified, making false public statements may not be a crime.

For example, in an investigation hindering Trump’s investigation by former special counsel Robert Mueller, prosecutors concluded that the former president’s false statements about his campaign’s ties to Russia could only be considered criminal if he told them to Congress. Or made into the FBI.

But Chief U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell in Washington agreed that Patel could reasonably believe he had reason to insist on a fifth, the Justice Department. applied for an order Sources said that he was given limited immunity from prosecution which was given late last week.

Trump has only in recent weeks doubled down on claims that all documents he held were declassified, while his office has said Trump issued a standing order that the White House residence be taken The recorded record was automatically declassified.

Trump also claimed Fox News host Sean Hannity, when asked what procedures he used to declassify documents, said the president had the authority to declassify documents by power of consideration.

Trump told Hannity, “Different people say different things, but as I understand it, if you’re the President of the United States, you’re going to call it unclassified, even about it.” Even thinking can declassify.”

But the Justice Department’s willingness to grant Patel an exemption underscores how important they view his testimony as prosecutors continue to collect evidence against Trump through his current and former aides.

Prosecutors only grant immunity to witnesses as a last resort, especially in high-profile cases, as it potentially makes them more difficult to prosecute in the future, and the move requires the Justice Department. Internal approval is required at the highest levels.

The Justice Department has pressured Trump’s valet Walt Nauta to sit for additional interviews about how Trump instructed him to remove boxes from a storage room in Mar-a-Lago where classified marked documents were kept, sources Said one of them.

Nauta has contested another interview with prosecutors – on the advice of his lawyer, who also represents Patel – when he indicated that he was suspecting a preliminary account that he used to transfer documents from the storage room. gave about and raised the possibility of obstructing him.


Source: www.theguardian.com

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