Where Alina Habba Didn’t Personally Search
Given the news that Alina Habba appeared before the grand jury investigating Trump’s stolen documents, I wanted to go back to the declaration she submitted in the NY State investigation pertaining to diligent searches for documents in that investigation back in May 2022.
Politico reported on it before the public release about details of the stolen classified documents, and as such was taken as a claim that Habba conducted a search of the locations where documents were known to have been stored.
But it wasn’t.
Obviously, that’s true because (as Habba made a big deal of pointing out just after the original Politico report) the May 2022 searches were just for documents responsive to Tish James’ subpoena focused on the valuation of various properties, not for classified records.
But that’s also true because Habba did not search all the locations known to have stored Trump’s stolen documents.
The certifications involved include a nested certification, on Trump’s behalf, to the diligence of the search. Trump personally signed an affidavit, but he relied on the diligence of searches done by others, including the physical searches of three properties by lawyers.
5. Nevertheless, in an abundance of caution and in accordance with the Order, I authorized the additional, follow-up searches to be performed on my private residences:
a. On May 4, 2022, I authorized my attorney, Alina Habba, to search my private residence and personal office located at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey for any and all documents responsive to the Subpoena.
b. On May 5, 2022, I authorized Alina Habba to search my private residence and personal office located at The Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida for any and all documents responsive to the Subpoena.
c. On May 5, 2022, I authorized Alan Garten, General Counsel for the Trump Organization, to search my private apartment located in Trump Tower in New York, New York for any and all documents responsive to the Subpoena
It is my understanding that searches of the above-listed locations have been performed by my attorneys, the Trump Organization Legal Department, the Trump Organization IT Department, and others.
Habba was not involved in the searches of business locations in Trump Tower or Trump’s residence there. Alan Garten was.
Garten was similarly responsible for compliance with subpoenas in conjunction with the various Russian investigations, and there are what SSCI called, “known deficiencies in the Trump Organization’s document responses,” including the email between Michael Cohen and Dmitri Peskov’s assistant, among others.
Garten did not submit a declaration in this package. Instead, Habba vouched for the diligence of Garten’s search.
f. On May 5, 2022, I coordinated and communicated with Alan Garten via telephone with regard to his search of Respondent’s private residence in Trump Tower including all desks, drawers, file cabinets, and similar locations likely to house files or documents. The search did not identify any documents responsive to the Subpoena.
So in this filing, Trump relied on the searches done by Habba and Garten, but Garten relied on Habba to attest to the diligence of the search.
And no one searched the storage facility in Florida at which some of Trump’s White House papers were stored, where two classified documents were discovered in follow-up searches by Trump’s lawyers in November.
But even the two properties Habba did search include gaps.
b. On May 4, 2022, I diligently searched each and every room of Respondent’s private residence located at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, including all desks, drawers, nightstands, dressers, closets, etc. I was unable to locate any documents responsive to the Subpoena that have not already been produced to the OAG by the Trump Organization.
c. On May 4, 2022, I diligently searched Respondent’s personal office located at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, including all desks, drawers, file cabinets, etc. I was unable to locate any documents responsive to the Subpoena that have not already been produced to the OAG by the Trump Organization.
d. On May 5, 2022, I diligently searched each and every room of Respondent’s private residence located at Mar-a-Lago, including all desks, drawers, nightstands, dressers, closets, etc. I was unable to locate any documents responsive to the Subpoena that have not already been produced to the OAG by the Trump Organization.
e. On May 5, 2022, I diligently searched Respondent’s personal office located at Mara-Lago, including all desks, drawers, file cabinets, etc. I was unable to locate any documents responsive to the Subpoena that have not already been produced to the OAG by the Trump Organization.
It’s hard to see how a one day search of these facilities, May 4 at Bedminster and then May 5 at Mar-a-Lago, could be that thorough, in any case.
But on May 5, when Habba was searching MAL, the bulk of the documents that were later seized were probably still in the storage closet from which they were moved in advance of Evan Corcoran’s search leading up to June 3. That’s neither the residence nor Trump’s office.
While there were likely classified documents in the drawers she searched at the time she searched them — a Secret document attached to Roger Stone clemency paperwork, and a Secret and a Confidential document attached to post-Administration messages from others — it’s not clear where the leatherbound box that held the most sensitive documents would have been stored in May 2022 (which was ultimately found in the office). And it’s still not clear where the classified documents in a box with Trump’s White House schedules was when the FBI conducted its search in August.
But there’s no way Habba would have found most documents, because most documents were still in that storage room.
They are understood to have been moved out of the storage room into the residence after the May 11 subpoena, days after Habba’s search.
Habba’s testimony would have been useful for showing that when asked to do a diligent search, Trump specifically hid from her one of the locations where he stored documents. She also would have added testimony about the absence of boxes in the residence when she searched it.
Am I missing something, or did Garten only search Trump’s residence at Trump Tower? Since they were looking for financial documents for the Atty Gnl James suit, shouldn’t his offices as Trump Tower have been searched, too? “We did a thorough search of the refrigerator looking for toothpaste and didn’t find any.” Not really responsive to a subpoena looking for toothpaste.
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I suspect that that’s the kind of search they did.
That’s discussed in other parts of the declarations. These bullets only address places we know there’ve been subsequent searches.
So what? The backbone of the case still stands: Trump refused to return the documents.
Your “so what” seems to imply that this post undermines a tangential element of the case agrainst Trump. But per Marcy’s concluding paragraph, “Habba’s testimony would have been useful for showing that when asked to do a diligent search, Trump specifically hid from her one of the locations where he stored documents.” This information may not reside in the molten core of the case, but to the extent that it erodes Trump’s claims of full responsiveness. This hurts Trump’s position. IANAL so I will refrain from speculating on how much.
That is correct. Even if it went the other way a little, DOJ needs to know the facts.
….anyone else want to play a game of three-card monte?
So, Doc, & other legal minds, fill in the blanks for me:
While technically not responsive to the NY State subpoena, if Ms. Habba had come across a Secret document at MAL, what are her legal obligations?
It’s clear that her declarations (this & secret docs case) are very carefully and cleverly parsed — CYA. Is it enough to protect her?
Sizable red flag there and something covered here before. When preparing an affidavit regarding, say, a search, it’s normal to draft it for signature by the person who actually did the search. It’s highly unusual for the lawyer to position themself as an intermediary. It’s gamesmanship, bad practice, and insufficient for the purposes of the person to whom you give the affidavit, and potentially expensive in many ways for the lawyer. But standard practice in Trump world, it seems.
And I suspect that’s one reason they wanted to interview her — to ID how this came about in the NYS case (where they spent 2 months devising this approach).
It smacks of hearsay. “No, I didn’t do the actual search, but someone told me that they found nothing.”
It’s all fun and games until somebody gets punched in the mouth. In this case, Miss Habba.
Savage Jack Smith is running over all these clowns. Did I mention that all the idjits in Arizona have just received their very own subpoenas?
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A thousand times this.
A million times this.
And then some.
Anyone who has had to go through the house of a deceased relative, picking up every item of clothing, every piece of furniture, every plate and kitchen utensil, and every piece of paper in every file in every drawer and filing cabinet knows that this is not a one day job.
Simply going through all that paper takes time.
Is this a silly note that is of no value?
Is this a letter with great personal importance to someone in the family?
Is this a document that should have been recycled decades ago?
Is this a document (receipt, title, record, etc.) that needs to be kept to settle the estate?
Is this the sole written copy of the secret family recipe for XXXXX, which is more valuable to the family than the title to the house?
Just opening every box, every drawer, and every filing cabinet takes time.
Just opening every envelope, every notebook, and every folder takes more time.
Then looking at every single solitary piece of paper,
each and every one of them,
looking at the text on the paper and the notes in the margin of each and every one of them . . .
That takes a helluva lot of time.
And trust anyone who has ever had to deal with their parent’s papers.
Yes, yes, and yes again. I’ve done it three times for my parents and other relatives, which took me months each time, and am way behind going thru my own papers in order to make it a little easier for my heirs when my time comes.
My mother was about as unsentimental as could be. (ETA: at least for other people’s stuff.) So she tossed stuff that I’d have kept, like my father’s college transcript.
this. spent 3 months clearing out the family home. [and peterr, took me 10 years to touch everything in the family history boxes we exchanged emails about several years ago. now knowing what we have, i’ve begun placing various collections in local historical societies and museums – been quite the journey.]
Glad to hear it!
And yet she did not call me to come take away her giant record collection!
Smith (formerly Garland): Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?
Wheeler: To the curious incident of the documents found in the lawyers’ search.
Smith (formerly Garland): There were no documents found in the lawyers’ search.
Wheeler: That was the curious incident.
Well, if it was the legal whack-a-mole this is appearing to be, who was directing the movement of documents? It also helps explain why DoJ showed up uninvited in August (but with warrants in hand) if they were getting tired of the show. One wonders how long it will take SC Smith to extend full courtesies to Trump Tower and Bedminster. I don’t think he’ll dig up Ivana’s grave but after all of this, he just might.
“I don’t think he’ll dig up Ivana’s grave but after all of this, he just might.”
If Trump has eaten paper and flushed it down the toilet, you can be sure there is something hiding in plain sight at Ivana’s grave.
I can see it playing out like this: Individual-1 tells his minion(s) to make sure no one finds the papers. Minion-1 (who I think ought to be at M-a-L) then does the mechanical side, which takes more attention to detail than his boss will ever possess. That’s why the question is asked.
FWIW, I don’t think the lawyers would do it, but someone like Kash Patel would do it in a heartbeat. Maybe if we dig into who’s spent too much time at M-a-L for their own good kissing the ring, so to speak, we might get better names.
This is silly. Trump hasn’t been hiding any of this stuff. He’s been hoarding it. It certainly does him no good to bury it. He kept the worst of it in a big leather box in his stupid office desk for crying out loud.
Your conclusion that Trump was “only” hoarding and not hiding government material is not supported by the evidence.
They found stuff in August that wasn’t officially there in June. They know stuff was moved in and out of that storage room. That’s “hiding” stuff.
When the FBI searched MAL, Trump made a big deal about his safe.
But Habba doesn’t mention searching his safe. Unless it’s covered by “etc”
I am not a lawyer, so I don’t understand how the court can order a search, ask for a status report, and accept “Someone else told me that they did it and didn’t find anything.” as a valid response to whether or not the search has been done. Shouldn’t the “someone else” have to submit an affidavit? Or can the court order this to be done? You might as well say, “I have no idea if there are any responsive documents to the request. In fact, I didn’t even look for them. But Bob did it, and he said there’s nothing there.” Okay, then where’s the affidavit from Bob?
Meh, this happens frequently with the government, as they rely on agents reports. Bottom line, of course the court accepted it, that does not necessarily mean they gave it, or will give it, or a ton of credence. The case will roll on.