Top Trump attorney appeared before grand jury last December in classified docs probe: Sources

Timothy Parlatore testified about documents found at Mar-a-Lago, sources said.

March 23, 2023, 8:53 PM

A top attorney for former President Donald Trump gave previously undisclosed testimony before a grand jury late last year regarding efforts by Trump's team to locate any classified documents that remained in Trump's possession after the FBI's unprecedented August search of his Mar-a-Lago estate, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

The Dec. 22 testimony from attorney Timothy Parlatore was ordered after months of wrangling between Trump's attorneys and officials in the Justice Department, who had grown increasingly concerned that Trump still continued to hold onto classified documents after more than 100 were discovered in the August 8 search, sources said.

In fact, just days before his testimony, Parlatore revealed to the DOJ and D.C. district court Judge Beryl Howell that a search of Mar-a-Lago conducted by Trump's legal team on Dec. 15 and 16 had discovered four additional documents with classification markings, according to sources.

Parlatore was not subpoenaed for his testimony, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Parlatore, when reached for comment by ABC News, said, "I voluntarily and happily chose to go into the grand jury so that I could present my client's case to them in the context of our search efforts. During my testimony, it was clear that the government was not acting appropriately and made several improper attempts to pierce privilege and, in my opinion, made several significant misstatements to the jury which I believe constitutes prosecutorial misconduct."

A spokesperson for Trump didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Parlatore spent more than seven hours inside the courthouse on the day of his testimony, according to a pool report from a broadcast producer stationed at the court that day.

News of Parlatore's appearance comes as another Trump attorney, Evan Corcoran, is expected to appear before a grand jury on Friday to answer questions from the special counsel that he had previously refused to address, citing attorney-client privilege. As ABC News first reported, Judge Howell last Friday found that prosecutors in special counsel Jack Smith's office had made a "prima facie showing that the former president had committed criminal violations" in the course of using Corcoran's legal services, and that his claims of privilege could therefore be pierced, sources said.

Edward Gallagher's Defense attorney Tim Parlatore speaks to members of the media before walking into military court, July 2, 2019, in San Diego.
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

According to sources familiar with the details of Judge Howell's order last week, the judge said the government had provided no direct evidence thus far that Trump was aware of the four documents with classified markings that were found at Mar-a-Lago in December. Her ruling to pierce Corcoran's privilege was instead based more on evidence presented to her by the government about Trump's actions in advance of the August search, sources said.

The discovery, however, only exacerbated what was already a breakdown in trust between the two sides, sources said, as senior DOJ officials pressed in sealed court proceedings to have Trump's team ordered to comply with their original May 11 subpoena demanding Trump hand over any remaining documents with classified markings in his possession.

On Nov. 15, a month before the discovery of the four documents at Mar-a-Lago, Parlatore notified Howell and DOJ that two other documents in folders marked "Secret" were found when Trump's representatives searched a General Services Administration (GSA) rental storage unit in West Palm Beach, Florida, the sources said.

Smith, whose Nov. 18 appointment as special counsel overseeing the classified documents investigation came in the middle of the behind-the-scenes court fight with Trump's lawyers, eventually moved for Trump's team to be held in contempt by Judge Howell over their failure to comply with the May subpoena, as ABC News previously reported.

While Judge Howell declined to hold Trump or his legal team in contempt at a Dec. 9 hearing, sources said, she did order Parlatore to testify on issues surrounding a signed certification he had provided that outlined the results of his team's searches of locations where records responsive to the DOJ's original subpoena could be located.

Howell also suggested at the hearing that Trump's legal team include Mar-a-Lago in their list of locations to be searched again, despite the FBI's previous court-authorized search of the property months earlier, sources said.

On Dec. 16, following a two-day search of Mar-a-Lago, Parlatore submitted a revised certification that acknowledged the discovery of the four additional documents in a closet near Trump's office, sources said. Parlatore has said publicly that Trump wasn't aware of the records, and that they were inside a box transferred into the closet by a young staffer who believed it contained daily summaries of Trump's activities while president.

Parlatore said in the certification that no further classified documents were found in other searches in October and November of Trump's Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, his Trump Tower office in New York, and a GSA-leased office location in Florida.

Prior to his Dec. 22 testimony, Parlatore had previously volunteered to testify on a narrow line of questions around his certifications to the government regarding the results of the searches, but Howell's order expanded upon the topics the government would be permitted to question him on, sources said.

According to sources, Parlatore was ordered to answer questions on how he determined which locations needed to be searched, the identities of individuals involved in the searches, and how they were carried out.

The sources said Howell also ordered that Parlatore answer questions on concerns raised by the Justice Department that Trump's team could potentially engage in a "shell game" to prevent documents from being found by moving them between locations before the locales were set to be searched.

It's not immediately clear how Parlatore answered to those concerns, but sources said that he invoked attorney-client privilege over any questions that related to his interactions with Trump.

It's also not known whether the special counsel moved to compel Parlatore to answer any such questions, as prosecutors did in the case of Corcoran and another Trump attorney, Jennifer Little.

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