An aide to former President Donald Trump acknowledged Friday that he appeared before a grand jury investigating White Housein Palm Beach, Fla.
A spokesperson for Kash Patel, who served in the Trump White House in intelligence and defense roles and was designated by Trump to be a representative to the National Archives and Records Administration, said in a statement to CBS News that Patel testified to the Washington, D.C. grand jury Thursday.
The spokesperson, Erica Knight, did not describe Patel’s testimony, but said “his testimony was compelled over his objection through the only legal means available to the government — a grant of limited immunity.”
The Justice Department in August seized White House files from Mar-a-Lago, some of which were“Top Secret.” Trump has insisted the documents were in his possession lawfully. Trump has also said that in the waning days of his presidency he declassified some material in his possession that had been classified.
Patel said in a May interview with Breitbart News that he was present as Trump declassified material. Patel did not indicate Friday if the grand jury asked him about that interview, in which he said Trump had “declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government.”
Trump, who has not been charged in connection with his possession of the documents and maintains his innocence, sued the Justice Department in August, demanding a return of the seized documents.
In October, an individual who worked at Mar-a-Lago told investigators that Trump directed the individual to move boxes of sensitive documents as the investigation was already underway, according to a person familiar with the matter.
A special master appointed by the judge presiding over Trump’s lawsuit is reviewing thousands of documents to determine which, if any, of the documents might be covered by attorney-client or executive privilege.
Trump’s lawyers have said a president has broad declassification authority, but haven’t echoed Trump’s claim that he declassified any of the seized materials.
Federal prosecutors also say they are examining potential obstruction by Trump’s legal team, alleging investigators were misled in June when representatives for the former president said all classified documents had been returned to the government.