On Tuesday morning, federal prosecutors and lawyers for embattled campaign financier Jeffrey E. Thompson entered a closed courtroom to argue over what to do with the 60 boxes of documents and 20 million pages of electronic records seized from Thompson in March.
The dispute is over who should have the first opportunity to peruse the records, which have been sealed because Thompson has not been charged with a crime. Should it be a Department of Justice “filter team,” walled off from prosecutors, that selects pertinent records for criminal review? Or should Thompson’s own lawyers decide which documents are responsive to the government’s search warrant?
The conflict was laid out in a unsealed May court opinion by U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, whose decision in favor of prosecutors is now being appealed by Thompson.
With the case and Tuesday’s proceedings sealed, there’s no telling what the three U.S. Court of Appeals judges hearing the case are thinking or how soon they might rule. But the fact that investigators have yet to crack open the voluminous Thompson files indicates it could be months before there is significant progress on prosecutions related to the ”shadow campaign” said to have been funded with $653,000 of Thompson’s money.
His erstwhile right-hand woman, Jeanne Clarke Harris, pleaded guilty in July to concealing and disbursing those funds, from a “co-conspirator” that several people familiar with the investigation have confirmed is Thompson.
With Thompson continuing to fight prosecutors tooth and nail, it’s clear that if they want to get their hands on him or the politicians he funded, they’ll have to do it without Thompson’s help.