A federal judge on Friday declined to hold former President Donald Trump in contempt of court for failing to comply with a May subpoena demanding that he return all classified documents he had in his possession when he left office.
Judge Beryl Howell’s decision came after the Justice Department requested Trump be found in contempt and asked the court to consider imposing financial penalties if nobody on Trump’s team could state under oath that all classified material has been returned.
Instead, Howell told the Justice Department and Trump’s team to work together to resolve the legal dispute themselves, sources confirmed to The New York Times, CNN and ABC News.
News that the Justice Department had asked Howell to hold Trump in contempt was first reported on Thursday.
The court proceedings, which lasted almost 90 minutes, were not open to the public and no outcome of the hearing was publicly announced.
Howell during the proceedings asked federal prosecutors how Trump could be held in contempt considering steps that his legal team has made to address the Justice Department’s concerns that classified documents may still be in his possession, sources told CNN.
The hearing came after Trump’s team acknowledged that it had found more government documents at Trump properties amid pressure from Justice Department officials who warned that they believe further documents were still in the former president’s possession.
The Justice Department has been investigating Trump for months on criminal allegations that he illegally took classified records with him when he left the White House in early 2021.
Following lengthy litigation on the matter, a grand jury produced a subpoena in May demanding Trump return to the government all classified records.
In early August, the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, producing thousands of government documents, more than 100 of which were classified.
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