Washington — Donald Trump’s former criminal attorney said Wednesday he believes charges could be brought in Florida and the former president’s legal team has a plan in place to respond, which would include motions to dismiss any indictment.
In an interview with CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge, Timothy Parlatore said a grand jury empaneled by special counsel Jack Smith’s team of prosecutors in Florida — which most recently heard testimony Wednesday from Trump’s former spokesperson— is a “pretty new development” and indicates a charging decision could be reached in the coming weeks. He said he learned about the grand jury only after his departure from the Trump legal team in mid-May.
The move from Washington, D.C., where federal prosecutors have questioned numerous witnesses already, to Florida, Palatore says, indicates investigators could have “screwed up” and recognized the alleged misconduct being investigated occurred in Florida and would likely have to be prosecuted there. He thinks that the grand jury in Washington, D.C. handling the matter may have expired in mid-May.
Smith’s team is investigating Trump’s retention of classified documents from his White House tenure and alleged efforts to obstruct the probe.
“Florida has the better venue for this. I think that if you bring it in DC, you’re giving a very big, juicy motion to dismiss,” Parlatore said, “From everything that I have seen, there’s no allegations of any wrongdoing that’s connected to D.C.”
“The government moved all the documents to Mar-a-Lago, not Donald Trump. He was still president when he landed at Mar-a-Lago. And then once he becomes a private citizen…all of that happened in Florida, nothing happened in D.C”.
When Parlatore left in mid-May, he said a plan was already in place to respond to a potential indictment.
He anticipates Trump’s legal team would file a motion to dismiss the case, based on allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. While he said he does not know how the plan may have evolved, “Any attorney in that situation would want to have a good plan in place. And I have every faith in [Trump’s current legal team].”
“You have to wait until you see the actual indictment to know what you’re specifically responding to, but there are a lot of issues related to this case that are very ripe for motions to dismiss, particularly on the obstruction side,” Parlatore said.
Parlatore told Herridge he was “stunned” during his testimony before a grand jury interview when he was asked by prosecutors about issues he said were protected by attorney-client privilege, which he believes was an improper line of questioning that he contends crossed a legal “red line.”
Two people familiar with the probe said that Trump’s legal team is frustrated with how Justice Department officials have handled attorney-client matters in recent months and raised the concerns to Justice Department officials and to Smith himself in a.
The special counsel’s office declined to comment on Parlatore’s allegations.
Parlatore first started representing the former president last year, as the Justice Department investigated Trump’s retention of classified documents. He told CNN in May that he resigned from the legal team that same month, amid infighting among the former president’s representatives. A spokesperson for Trump denied there was any discord on his team.
After other Trump lawyers handled the Mar-a-Lago search, Parlatore assumed much of the responsibility for the Trump team’s search for more documents across the former president’s other properties — including Trump Tower in Manhattan and the former president’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club — and later appeared voluntarily before a grand jury to answer questions about the search. It was during that appearance that he alleges he witnessed misconduct.
After his testimony, in a statement, he said 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 [grand] jury, which I believe constitutes prosecutorial misconduct.”
Parlatore was also among the lawyers who sent a letter to Congress asking the Justice Department to “stand down” on the documents probe. In the letter, he and Trump lawyer Jim Trusty said the former president’s departure from the White House after the election was hastily conducted and staff “simply swept all documents from the President’s desk and other areas into boxes” that were then moved to Florida. But during a town hall, last month, Trump said he took the papers and was “allowed” to do so, seemingly contradicting the assertion of his attorneys.
In that letter to Congress, Parlatore and Trusty revealed that after the initial 15 boxes of records and documents were returned from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives in January 2022, they were given access to those records.
The lawyers’ search of those boxes revealed briefings for phone calls with foreign leaders were likely interspersed with “newspapers, magazines, notes, letters, and daily schedules,” the letter said. Staff from the National Archives had replaced the potentially classified records with placeholder inserts that described their contents. The specific contents of the 15 boxes, including the potential notes from calls with foreign leaders, had not been reported before the letter was sent to Congress.
The former Trump attorney also commented on reporting, confirmed by CBS News, that prosecutors obtained a recording in which the former president said he was in possession of a sensitive Pentagon document connected to plans to attack Iran.
“I never saw that document, but I will tell you this,” Parlatore said. “All the documents essentially fell into three categories:Those that were returned to the National Archives before the beginning of the investigation; those that were seized by the FBI; and those that were returned that were sent to DOJ by our team as part of the various searches.”
“So, if that document exists, it would be in one of those three piles,” he said, describing the process by which Trump’s legal team went about collecting records. “We had to take any marked document and immediately turn it back in. And so when he saw those markings, you didn’t read it.”
Since Trump left the White House, his attorneys engaged in a back-and-forth with the National Archives over White House records missing from the federal government’s possession. After the Archives discovered documents with classified markings were brought to Mar-a-Lago, the matter was referred to federal prosecutors, who issued subpoenas for even more records, some of which were handed over by Trump’s legal team in June 2022.
It was not until the FBI executed a federal search warrant in August at Mar-a-Lago that investigators say they uncovered over 100 documents with classified markings in Trump’s possession.
Speaking with CBS News, Parlatore reiterated claims made in his letter to Congress, blaming the document transfer on regular government conduct and federal employees who swept documents into boxes and brought them to Mar-a-Lago.