A federal judge declined to hold former President Donald Trump in contempt of court at a closed-door hearing Friday, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
The sources also told CNN that Chief Justice Beryl Howell has instead pressed Trump’s team and the Justice Department to work together to find a mutually acceptable solution.
ABC News reported for the first time the referee had called on the teams to settle the matter themselves.
Trump’s contempt proceedings ended after nearly 90 minutes behind closed doors Friday afternoon in a Washington, D.C., court.
CNN watched prosecutors, including Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt, and Trump’s lawyers leave court shortly before 3:30 p.m. ET. The two legal teams had gathered in the camera area for Howell, who had to consider whether to hold Trump in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena ordering him to turn over classified records, according to CNN reports.
The result was not publicly announced.
According to sources, the judge questioned prosecutors about how she could impeach Trump’s team, given the steps Trump’s lawyers have taken to ease the Justice Department’s concerns that there may still be records in Trump’s possession.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
Asked for comment, Trump spokesman Stephen Cheng sent the same statement released Thursday, saying the former president and his lawyers “will continue to be transparent and cooperative, even in the face of a heavily armed and corrupt witch hunt by the Department of Justice.
A coalition of media organizations, including CNN, asked Howell to allow public access to Friday’s hearing, but the judge denied the request.
Lisa Klemm, the court’s spokeswoman, acknowledged Friday’s sealed hearing in a statement but did not provide more information about what happened.
“This afternoon the Court held a hearing on an ongoing and sealed grand jury matter. This matter remains sealed pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) and Local Criminal Rule 6.1,” the statement said.
DOJ sought to disparage Trump and his office for failing to fully comply with a subpoena following the search of his Mar-a-Lago resort in August. Being held in contempt over subpoenas has become a feature of the former president’s legal entanglements since he left office.
Had he been held Friday for contempt, he could have racked up fines.
The proceedings have increased pressure on Trump as he faces possible criminal liability in the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation conducted by Special Prosecutor Jack Smith. It also adds another chapter to federal officials’ ongoing fight to get government records — especially those containing national security secrets — back from Trump after his administration ends.
After the Justice Department subpoenaed Trump for classified documents in his possession in May, prosecutors went to court to enforce the grand jury subpoena. The judge ordered Trump’s team to comply. That prompted a search by Trump’s lawyers last month that yielded two more classified documents.
But the Justice Department still isn’t satisfied with the search, and with Trump’s side not saying all the documents were turned over, CNN previously reported.
This title and story has been updated with additional developments.
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