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Trump Organization ordered to hand over foreign real estate deal records as part of classified documents probe

Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office subpoenaed the business empire for documents on real estate licensing and development dealings made in seven countries since Trump was sworn into office in 2017

Rachel Sharp
Tuesday 23 May 2023 13:08 BST
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The Trump Organization has been ordered to hand over records related to foreign real estate deals made since Donald Trump entered the White House – as the investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents continues to heat up.

Two sources told the New York Times that Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office has subpoenaed the business empire for documents on real estate licensing and development dealings made in seven countries since he was sworn into office in 2017.

The countries are: China, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

It is not clear what Mr Smith’s office is expecting to find in the records, when the subpoena was issued or what material may have been turned over as a result.

However, a source said that several of the classified documents found at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate were related to Middle Eastern nations.

During his time in office, the Trump Organization swore off any foreign business deals.

After Mr Trump left the White House, he struck a deal with Saudi- backed golf venture LIV Golf – a deal that the Times previously revealed Mr Smith’s office had subpoenaed the Trump Organization for records over.

Now, the latest move from federal prosecutors reveals they are expanding the probe into the handling of classified documents and suggests they are looking into whether there are any connections between Mr Trump’s foreign business dealings and the particular documents he took with him when he left office, the Times reported.

It’s the latest sign that the investigation into the classified documents Mr Trump took to Mar-a-Lago is heating up.

Last week it emerged that the National Archives had found a trove of records proving the former president knew he shouldn’t have taken classified documents to Mar-a-Lago.

The National Archives sent a letter, obtained by CNN, to Mr Trump revealing that it had found 16 presidential records showing he and his top advisers were aware of the correct declassification process when he was in the White House.

Trump Classified Documents (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

“The 16 records in question all reflect communications involving close presidential advisers, some of them directed to you personally, concerning whether, why, and how you should declassify certain classified records,” wrote archivist Debra Steidel Wall.

Those records will now be turned over to Mr Smith by 24 May.

Mr Trump has repeatedly falsely claimed that he was allowed to take classified documents with him when he left the Oval Office.

He has also falsely claimed that the documents “automatically” became declassified when he took them with him from the White House.

“I had every right to under the Presidential Records Act,” he said just last week, during the disastrous CNN town hall.

“You have the Presidential Records Act. I was there and I took what I took and it gets declassified.”

He later added: “And, by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them.”

In reality, under the Presidential Records Act, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has legal control of all presidential records as soon as a president leaves office.

Now, this trove of presidential records appears to pour cold water on Mr Trump’s claims that he doesn’t think he did anything wrong by taking the documents – instead suggesting that he was fully aware of the protocol but chose to disregard it.

Mr Trump’s attorney Jim Trusty insisted that he had the “constitutional authority” to take the documents.

“At the end of his presidency, he relied on the constitutional authority as commander-in-chief, which is to take documents and take them to Mar-a-Lago while still president as he was at the time, and to effectively declassify and personalise them,” he told CNN.

“He talked about declassifying them, but he didn’t need to.”

Meanwhile, the letter also revealed that Mr Trump’s legal team had tried to block NARA from handing over the records to Mr Smith’s office, citing “constitutionally based privilege”.

Mr Smith had issued NARA with a subpoena in January for records relevant to the grand jury investigation.

Notwithstanding any legal action to stop the handover, the special counsel will likely receive the records in question this week.

News of the damning evidence comes amid trouble inside Mr Trump’s leagl team after one of his attorneys Tim Parlatore representing him in the probe resigned earlier this month – amid in-fighting in the team.

The National Archives had first contacted Mr Trump in 2021 not long after he left office asking for documents that they had found to be missing from its records.

His team handed over boxes of documents – some including classified papers – but held onto troves more.

On learning, the FBI executed a raid on Mar-a-Lago in August 2022, seizing 27 boxes including 11 containing classified information.

Some of the information was of the highest possible top secret classification, meaning it should never have left the custody of the government.

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