Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:
Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed former U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert Hur as special counsel to investigate the classified documents from the Obama-Biden administration that were found at President Joe Biden’s home and former office.
- On November 2, 2022, Biden’s lawyers discovered about ten documents marked classified in a locked closet at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington — a University of Pennsylvania-affiliated think tank. The White House counsel’s office notified the National Archives and Records Administration that same day, and officials took possession of the materials the next day. CNN reported that the documents included intelligence memos and briefing materials containing information on Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom.
- On December 20, 2022, the President’s lawyers discovered a “small number” of documents at Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, located in a storage space in the garage. The Department of Justice was immediately notified upon the discovery, according to Richard Sauber, a special counsel to the President. On Thursday, Biden’s lawyers found another classified document at the Wilmington residence.
- Garland had assigned Chicago-based U.S. Attorney John Lausch of the Northern District of Illinois to conduct the initial investigation into the matter. Lausch is one of only two current U.S. Attorneys who were appointed by former President Donald Trump and is still serving. (The other is conducting the Hunter Biden probe in Delaware.) Garland said that Lausch recommended that he appoint a special counsel to continue the investigation.
- Special counsel Hur will now investigate “the possible unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or other records discovered” in Biden’s possession. At the press conference in which he announced the special counsel appointment, Garland said, “This appointment underscores for the public the Department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters, and to making decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law.” Hur previously served in the Department for years, including as U.S. Attorney after he was appointed by Trump in 2017.
- On this week’s episode of CAFE Insider, Preet Bharara and Joyce Vance highlighted the differences between the Biden documents matter and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago documents. For example, FBI agents executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago to seize thousands of pages of documents after months of failed efforts to retrieve presidential documents from Trump, while Biden’s legal team reportedly voluntarily provided his documents to NARA once they were discovered.
A New York judge sentenced former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg to five months in jail for his role in a yearslong tax fraud scheme.
- Weisselberg pled guilty to 15 counts of tax fraud and financial crimes in 2022. As part of his plea deal, he was required to testify at the trial against the Organization. Without cooperating, he would have faced up to 15 years in prison.
- Weisselberg was the prosecution’s star witness at the trial. He testified that he received perks from the company, such as a Manhattan apartment and school tuition for his grandchildren, but he did not pay taxes on these benefits. In court, Weisselberg recounted the casual conversation that led to Trump paying for the tuition. “If I have to pay more in the way of tuition bills for these kids [referring to the tuition of his own grandchildren], I may as well pay your grandkids’ too,” Weisselberg testified that Trump said. Soon after, Trump started to pay for the tuition of Weisselberg’s grandchildren, which he ultimately subtracted from his overall compensation.
- The Trump Organization, which a jury found guilty of 17 counts of tax and financial offenses, will be sentenced later today. The company is facing up to $1.6 million in fines.
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