Files seized from Trump part of Espionage Act, obstruction probes: live updates
When FBI agents made the stunning decision to raid the Florida home of former President Donald J. Trump on Monday, whose warrant could be unsealed as early as Friday, attention quickly turned to Mr. Trump over the improper retention of records and documents from his time in the White House at his Florida residence.
Over the past year and a half, Mr. Trump has repeatedly faced questions about the nature of the documents he gave to the government, as well as others he kept after leaving office. and which, by law, had to be turned over to the National Archives and Records Management.
Here’s a timeline of Mr. Trump’s dealings with the National Archives, as well as efforts by lawmakers and Justice Department officials to identify and recover a variety of sensitive documents Mr. Trump may have stashed at his Florida home.
On January 19, the day before he left, Mr. Trump sent a letter to David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, appointing seven senior officials as his representatives to handle all future requests for presidential records. Among them were Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, and several White House attorneys, including Pat A. Cipollone and Patrick F. Philbin.
Through their work in the Office of the White House Legal Counsel, several of Mr. Trump’s representatives had helped fight congressional demands for White House records during Mr. Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 .
Mr. Trump left the White House on the morning of Jan. 20, just hours before President Biden’s inauguration. Accounts of the former president’s departure described a very disorganized exit with sloppy packaging, especially as aides had spent the previous weeks focused on contesting the 2020 election results and preparing the defense of Mr. Trump in a second impeachment trial held in February.
The National Archives said it received a collection of White House documents at the end of the administration. He later said many were torn and glued back together, and others were put back into pieces that authorities never put back together.
It was later revealed that in mid-January the National Archives managed to recover 15 boxes of documents taken from the White House at the end of Mr Trump’s term and stored at Mar-a-Lago, the club private and the residence of Mr. Trump. in Palm Beach, Florida. The agency said it negotiated with Mr. Trump’s attorneys throughout 2021 to have the documents returned.
The boxes included a number of letters and personal gifts Mr. Trump had received, including correspondence with Kim Jong-un and a congratulatory letter former President Barack Obama had left for Mr. Trump.
“These records should have been transferred to NARA from the White House when the Trump administration ended in January 2021,” the National Archives said in a statement.
Sometime after receiving the boxes, the National Archives discovered what appeared to be classified information in the documents Mr. Trump had kept and reported the incident to the Justice Department for advice. The agency publicly confirmed Feb. 18 that it found documents marked as containing “classified national security information” among the boxes.
The discovery sparked concern among lawmakers, who began investigating through the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
In a Feb. 24 letter, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chair of the committee, requested a detailed account from the National Archives of the contents of the boxes found at Mar-a-Lago, including anything Mr. Trump had shredded or tried. destroy.
“I am deeply concerned that former President Trump may have violated the law through his intentional efforts to suppress and destroy documents belonging to the American people,” she wrote.
In response to the National Archives’ referral to the Justice Department in February, federal authorities apparently began their own investigation into how classified information ended up at Mr. Trump’s home in Florida.
In April, the Justice Department ordered the National Archives not to share further details about materials found at Mar-a-Lago with the House Oversight Committee, suggesting the FBI was in the preliminary stages of an investigation. criminal.
In early May, the Justice Department issued a subpoena to the National Archives to obtain classified documents found in boxes recovered from Mar-a-Lago. Authorities also requested interviews with several White House officials present in the final days before Mr. Trump left the White House. These steps seemed to confirm that the Justice Department had opened a grand jury investigation into whether Mr. Trump had mishandled the sensitive documents and that his investigative efforts were gaining momentum.
Sometime in the spring, a small group of federal agents, including at least one involved in counterintelligence, also paid an unusual visit to Mar-a-Lago to seek more information about classified documents believed to be could be stored there. Mr. Trump and at least one of his attorneys were reportedly present for part of the meeting. It was not immediately clear when the visit took place.
On Monday, FBI agents descended on Mr Trump’s home, opening a safe as they carried out the search in what appeared to be the latest attempt to obtain information relating to his handling of classified documents.
In a interview On “Real America’s Voice” on Tuesday, Christina Bobb, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, appeared to confirm that agents were looking for presidential records, some of which may contain classified information.
During a deposition in New York on Wednesday, Mr. Trump declined to answer questions from State Attorney General Letitia James, citing the Fifth Amendment. Since March 2019, Ms James has been investigating whether the former president fraudulently inflated the value of his assets to secure loans and other benefits.
Shortly after the interrogation began, Mr. Trump’s office released a statement that he would invoke his right not to self-incriminate and launch the investigation as part of a larger conspiracy against him, linking him to the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago on Monday. .
On Thursday, one of Mr. Trump’s representatives at the National Archives revealed that the former president was subpoenaed this spring to return classified documents months before the FBI raided his Florida residence, suggesting the Department of Justice had tried other methods to account for the materials.
After the subpoena was released, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland decided to release the warrant and supporting documents used in the search and said he personally approved of the decision after attempts failed.” less intrusive”.
Late Thursday night, Mr. Trump said he would not oppose the motion to release the warrant and an inventory of items recovered from Monday’s search. But his lawyers have so far not formally responded to the Justice Department; they have until 3 p.m. ET on Friday to formally declare whether Mr. Trump has an objection.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that a list of documents removed from Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence includes documents marked as top secret and intended for viewing only in secure government facilities.