The Justice Department said Tuesday that classified documents were “likely concealed and removed” from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an effort to obstruct the federal investigation into the discovery of government archives.
The FBI also seized 33 boxes containing more than 100 classified records during its Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago and found classified documents hidden in Trump’s office, according to a filing that features the most detailed timeline at this day months of tension. interactions between Justice Department officials and Trump representatives over the discovery of government secrets.
The file offers another indication of the sheer volume of classified documents recovered at Mar-a-Lago. This shows how investigators conducting a criminal investigation focused not only on why the records were improperly stored there, but also on whether the Trump team intentionally misled them about the continued presence and illegal top secret documents.
The timeline established by the Ministry of Justice made it clear that the extraordinary search of Mar-a-Lago came only after other efforts to retrieve the records had failed and was the result of the suspicion of the forces. of the order that additional material remained inside the property despite assurances from Trump’s representatives that a “diligent search” had accounted for all material.
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It also included a photo of some of the seized documents bearing clear classification marks, perhaps as a way to refute suggestions that whoever was packing or handling them did not understand their sensitive nature.
The photo shows the cover pages of a handful of classified paperclip-bound documents – some marked “TOP SECRET//SCI” with bright yellow borders, and one marked “SECRET//SCI” with a border rust-colored – as well as bleached pages, spread out on a carpet at Mar-a-Lago. Next to them is a cardboard box filled with gold-framed pictures, including a Time Magazine cover.
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The Justice Department filing fails to answer the fundamental questions that have driven public fascination with the investigation — why Trump kept the documents after he left the White House and why he and his team have resisted repeated efforts to get them. to return.
In fact, during a June 3 visit to Mar-a-Lago by FBI and Justice Department officials, “the former president’s attorney offered no explanation as to why boxes of government documents, including 38 documents with classification marks, remained on the premises almost five months after the production of the Fifteen Boxes and almost a year and a half after the end of the Administration,” according to the document.
This visit to Mar-a-Lago, which took place weeks after the Justice Department issued a subpoena for the records, receives substantial attention in the document and is a key focus of the investigation.
Although Trump said he had declassified all the documents at Mar-a-Lago, his lawyers did not suggest this during the visit and instead “treated them in a way that suggested the lawyer believed that the documents were classified”.
When FBI agents traveled to Mar-a-Lago in June to accept receipt of additional documents, they received “a single Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in tape, containing the documents.”
This envelope, according to the FBI, contained 38 unique documents with classification marks, including five documents marked confidential, 16 marked secret and 17 marked top secret.
During that visit, the document says, Trump’s attorneys told investigators that all records from the White House were stored in one location — a Mar-a-Lago storage room — and that “there there were no other files stored in a private place”. office space or other location on the premises and that all available boxes have been searched. »
After that, however, the Justice Department, which had subpoenaed video footage for the property, “developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the storage room and that efforts likely been deployed to obstruct the government’s investigation”. The file does not identify the people who may have moved the boxes.
During their search in August, officers found classified documents both in the storage room as well as in the former president’s office – including three classified documents found not in boxes, but in desks .
“The fact that the FBI, within hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification marks as the ‘diligent search’ that the former president’s attorney and other representatives had weeks to perform is a reminder seriously question the statements made in the June 3 certification and cast doubt on the extent of cooperation in this area,” the document states.
He says, “In some cases, even FBI counterintelligence staff and DOJ review attorneys have required additional clearances before they are allowed to review certain documents.”
The investigation began from a referral from the National Archives and Records Administration, which recovered 15 boxes from Mar-a-Lago in January that contained 184 documents with classified marks, including top secret information.
The purpose of Tuesday night’s filing was to oppose a request by Trump’s legal team for a special master to review documents seized in this month’s search and void those protected by claims of privilege. legal. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is scheduled to hear arguments on the issue Thursday.
Cannon said Saturday it was his “preliminary intention” to appoint such a person, but also gave the Justice Department an opportunity to respond.
On Monday, the department said it had already completed its review of potentially privileged documents and identified a “limited set of documents potentially containing attorney-client privileged information.” He said on Tuesday that the request was therefore “useless”.
In a separate development, Trump’s legal team has grown with the addition of another attorney. Chris Kise, the former Florida solicitor general, has joined the legal team representing Trump, according to two people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to discuss the decision by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. . Kise did not return messages seeking comment.