When Trump returned the materials to the National Archives seven months ago, officials became suspicious that the former president or someone close to him had the sensitive records. One though Judicial inquiry Handling 15 boxes of items sent to the former president’s private club and residence in the waning days of his administration.
In the months-long debate over the matter, some officials have at times suspected that Trump’s representatives were not being truthful, said people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
On Tuesday, a lawyer for Trump said agents who brought a court-authorized warrant to Mar-a-Lago a day earlier took 12 more boxes after the search.
Justice Department and FBI officials visited Mar-a-Lago this spring, people familiar with the investigation said. First reported by CNN. Officials spoke with Trump’s representatives and examined a storage facility where the documents were kept, and expressed concern that the former president or someone close to him still had items in government custody.
During that time, officials at the National Archives aggressively contacted people in Trump’s orbit to demand the return of documents they believed were covered by the Presidential Records Act, two people familiar with the investigations said. Like others, they spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the investigation.
Trump’s lawyer, Christina Pop, said his lawyers were in discussions with the Justice Department this spring about the items held at Mar-a-Lago. During that time, the former president’s legal team searched through two to three dozen boxes in a storage area, hunting for documents that could be considered presidential records and turning over several items that could meet the definition, he said.
In June, Bob said, he and Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran met with Jay Pratt, head of the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Division, along with several other investigators. Trump stopped the meeting as he began to greet investigators but was not interviewed. Prosecutors showed the boxes to federal officials, and Pratt and others looked at the items for a while.
Bob said Justice Department officials commented that they did not believe the storage unit was properly secured, so Trump officials added a lock to the facility. When FBI agents searched the property Monday, Popp added, they broke the lock attached to the door.
The FBI removed about a dozen boxes stored in the basement storage area, he said. Popp did not share the search warrant left by agents, but said it indicated agents were investigating possible violations of laws related to the handling of classified material and the Presidential Records Act.
Trump aides also declined to share the search warrant with The Washington Post.
Trump announced on Monday that the FBI had raided Mar-a-Lago and sought his protection, condemning it as the latest unfair move against him by the Justice Department and the FBI. Spokesmen for both companies declined to comment.
Asked Tuesday whether the former president or his advisers withheld or falsified documents, Trump spokesman Taylor Budovich said the FBI’s move was “not only unprecedented, but completely unnecessary.”
“President Trump and his representatives have gone to great lengths to communicate and cooperate with the appropriate agencies,” Budovich said in an emailed statement. “In the Democrats’ desperate bid to hold on to power, they have co-opted the entire conservative movement.”
An adviser who spoke to Trump after the search said the former president was excited by the development, bragging about how many Republicans were publicly supporting him and that Trump thought the search would help him politically in the end. The consultant spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Another adviser, former spokesman Jason Miller, said, “It further enhances his willingness to run the Republican base on his behalf.”
Some of Trump’s advisers have urged him to release the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago soon, raising his expected announcement that he will run for president in 2024. But Trump made no commitment to do so, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversations who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private exchanges.
Two people familiar with the initial recovery of items at Mar-a-Lago, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, said archivists believe the records are missing and suspect Trump handed them all over. . As the investigation has gained momentum, some Trump advisers have sought to distance themselves from the issue, fearing it could become a messy legal and political situation, according to people familiar with the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations.
After Monday’s search, lawyers close to Trump sought advice or referrals of criminal defense attorneys who could represent Trump, a person familiar with the lawyers said. Prosecutors said the warrant was related to allegations Trump withheld classified information, according to the person.
Trump already has several lawyers working for him, but it’s not uncommon for people facing investigative actions to seek local attorneys to go to a particular court district.
Dozens of Trump supporters descended on Palm Beach on Tuesday to show their support. Adrian Shochet, 64, of Lake Worth, Fla., bought a $14 broom, which he attached to an American flag and waved as he stood on a boardwalk overlooking part of Mar-a-Lago.
“I had to come out and show the whole free world that this is scary, and if they can do this, what’s next?” Shochet said. “It’s the polar opposite of what they thought they were going to get politically, because it’s empowering the right wing politically.”
Passing motorists shouted in support. A man stood on the bridge, which crosses the coastal waterway, holding an upside-down American flag — widely recognized as a symbol of his belief that the country was in distress.
Pat Stewart, 85, found a “Trump 2020” flag flying at his home in Jupiter, which he hoped would be put away until the next presidential election. For the next few hours, she stood in the sun with an 85-year-old friend from Michigan, waving to passing motorists.
“I was very angry, very angry and very upset that our government would do this to a former president,” Stewart said. Although aides said Trump was in New York and this week at his golf club and home in Bedminster, NJ, he believed he was at Mar-a-Lago.
“We want him to come out and announce that he’s running for president,” Stewart said.
Agents are conducting a court-authorized search as part of the investigation, a person familiar with the investigation said. Why documents long-term study — some of them top secret — were taken to the former president’s private club and home instead of being sent to the National Archives and Records Administration when Trump left office. The Presidential Records Act requires the preservation of memos, letters, memos, emails, faxes, and other written communications related to the President’s official duties.
In January, the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes of documents and other items from Mar-a-Lago. The then archivist of the United States, David S. Ferrero said in a statement in February that Trump representatives were “continually seeking” additional records.
Trump resisted handing over some of the boxes for months, some close to the president said, and believed many of the items were his personal and not government property. He eventually agreed to hand over some of the documents, “giving them what he believed they deserved,” in the words of one adviser.
Tim Craig in Palm Beach, Fla., contributed to this report.
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