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Trump attorneys request meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland amid special counsel probes

Barr: Trump's documents are biggest legal risk
Bill Barr says Trump's classified documents case is his biggest legal risk 14:27

WashingtonFormer President Donald Trump posted on social media late Tuesday a letter from his attorneys apparently sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland to request a meeting to discuss the ongoing special counsel investigations into the former president's conduct. 

The brief letter does not explicitly state their concerns, but lawyers John Rowley and James Trusty wrote without specifics that their client is being treated "unfairly" and requested a meeting with the nation's top law enforcement official to "discuss the ongoing injustice that is being perpetrated by your Special Counsel and his prosecutors."

In November, Garland appointed Jack Smith as special counsel  to oversee dual federal probes into Trump's conduct: one involving his actions surrounding the 2020 presidential election and the other related to his handling of documents with classified markings after he left office. 

"No President of the United States has ever, in the history of our country, been baselessly investigated in such an outrageous and unlawful fashion," the lawyers wrote Tuesday, echoing criticisms levied by Trump himself against the special counsel. 

The Justice Department and a spokesperson for Smith declined to comment on the letter. 

Former U.S. President Donald Trump Visits Scotland
Former President Donald Trump disembarks his plane at Aberdeen Airport on May 1, 2023 in Aberdeen, Scotland. Former U.S. President Donald Trump is visiting Scotland as he faces legal actions in the United States. Early April, Trump had pled not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records. Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

Although lawyers for a client under investigation can regularly ask to meet with Justice Department officials as charging decisions near, the outreach of Trump's legal team to Garland himself is an unusual move, especially in an investigation spearheaded by an independent prosecutor. At the time of his appointment, the Attorney General said, "As special counsel, [Smith] will exercise independent prosecutorial judgment to decide whether charges should be brought."

Federal regulations state that the Attorney General can only get involved in a special counsel probe if the investigation strays from Justice Department norms and federal law. Last week, Garland released a report by Trump-era Special Counsel John Durham, who was tasked with examining the origins of the FBI's 2016 Russia investigation. Durham wrote Garland 

allowed the investigative team " to operate independently." 

Responding to Trump's letter to Garland on Tuesday, the Attorney General's former spokesman Anthony Coley threw cold water on the idea that a meeting with Garland would take place. 

"Jack Smith is running this investigation, not Garland," Anthony Coley tweeted. wrote on Twitter, "Smith is not subject to the day to day oversight of any person at DOJ, including Garland… If Smith takes an investigative or prosecutorial step outside DOJ norms, Garland can step in at that point and overturn it. But then, Congress would be notified. And we'd all know about it." 

Trump's outreach to the Attorney General comes amid signs the federal probe into his handling of classified records and obstruction of the investigation could be coming to an end as grand jury activity and requests for witness interviews have slowed in recent weeks.

Investigators have interviewed numerous employees — both current and former — of Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, according to multiple people familiar with the matter, and have focused on the former president's response to a federal subpoena last year requiring that he turn over all documents containing classified markings, as described in detailed notes from another of his attorneys obtained by the special counsel.

The Justice Department has been investigating the retention of sensitive records since last year when the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes of material from Trump's time as president, some of which contained classified markings. After months of wrangling between the Trump legal team and Justice Department investigators, the FBI ultimately conducted a court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago in August and collected 103 documents marked classified. 

When he appointed Smith, the Attorney General said the special counsel's mandate extended to whether the investigation into the document retention was in any way obstructed. 

Last year, a source familiar with the matter told CBS News federal investigators questioned a Trump aide who said he moved boxes of documents at the behest of the former president. Investigators subpoenaed security camera footage in Mar-a-Lago, which contributed to their concern that the investigation was being obstructed.

Former Trump attorney Timothy Parlatore, who recently stepped away from the legal team after infighting with a top Trump adviser, called Tuesday's letter a "smart move." 

"The facts and the law do not support charges. However, given the level of prosecutorial misconduct demonstrated thus far, they cannot trust Smith's team to be honest or forthcoming with Merrick Garland, and understandably want an opportunity to be heard," he said in a statement to CBS News. 

Before his departure, Parlatore sent a letter of his own to Congress urging the Justice Department to "stand down" and seeking greater legislative oversight of the handling of classified records. 

Robert Costa contributed reporting. 

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