Former President Donald Trump asked one of his attorneys to tell the National Archives and Records Administration in early 2022 that Trump had returned all materials requested by the agency, but the attorney declined because he was unsure whether the statement was true, so familiar people The reason.
As it turned out, thousands more government documents — including some top-secret secrets — remained at Trump’s residence and private club in Mar-a-Lago. The subsequent discovery of those documents by a grand jury subpoena in May and the Aug. 8 FBI search of the Florida property are the focus of a criminal investigation into the possible misuse of classified materials and the possible hiding, tampering, or destruction of government records.
Alex Cannon, an attorney for Trump, had facilitated the transfer of 15 boxes of presidential records from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives in January after records officials fought for more than a year to get back “all of the president’s original records,” resulting in are they required by law. After months of being blocked by Trump’s officials, records officials threatened to involve the Justice Department or Congress.
Trump himself ended up packing the boxes that were returned in January, people familiar with the matter said. The former president appeared determined to declare in February that all materials sought from the archives had been turned over, said the people, who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal talks.
Deep in bustling Mar-a-Lago, a storeroom where secrets were kept
Around the same time the Washington Post reported that the archives had retrieved documents from Mar-a-Lago, the people said Trump had asked his team to release a statement he had dictated. The statement said Trump returned “everything” the archives requested. Trump asked Cannon to send a similar message to archives officials, the people said. In addition, the former president told his aides that the documents in the boxes were “newspaper clippings” and not relevant to the archives, two of those people said, complaining that the agency tasked with tracking government records was meticulous in securing the materials was from his club in Florida.
But Cannon, a former Trump Organization attorney who worked for the campaign and for Trump after the presidency, told Trump he could not tell the archives that all the requested materials had been returned. He told others he wasn’t sure if there were any other documents at the club and would be uncomfortable making such a claim, people familiar with the matter said. Other Trump advisers also encouraged Cannon not to make such a definitive statement, people familiar with the matter said.
The Feb. 7 statement dictated by Trump was never released because some members of his team had concerns it was incorrect, people familiar with the matter said. Another statement, released three days later, said Trump had “kindly” given boxes of materials to the archives. It was not said that all materials were handed over.
“The papers were given simply and without conflict and on a very friendly basis, which differs from the reports produced by the Fake News Media,” the February 10 statement, which came out the same day, said which the Washington Post reported Secret material was found in the 15 boxes.
A Trump spokesman did not respond to questions specific to this article, but instead issued a statement saying the Justice Department had “no greater ally than the Bezos-subsidized Washington Post, which appears to have acted only as a partisan mic of leaks and deep.” buried liars serves in the bowels of the American government. President Trump remains committed to defending the Constitution and the office of President and ensuring the integrity of America for generations to come.” (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Cannon did not respond to a lengthy email asking for comment on his interactions with Trump and the archives.
Trump and the Mar-a-Lago Documents: A Timeline
The question of whether Trump — or anyone else — knew there was additional government material at Mar-a-Lago after the return of the 15 boxes has become a central issue in the Justice Department’s investigation.
Attempts to get Trump’s representative to falsely claim that he has no documents from the President in his possession could serve as evidence that he intentionally and knowingly withheld documents. And if Trump continues to pressure aid workers to provide false information, even after learning that the Justice Department was involved in obtaining the documents, authorities could view those efforts as an attempt to obstruct their investigation.
Even when Trump tried to convey that he fully complied with the request from the archives, Cannon appears to have conveyed a different message to agency officials.
On February 8, archives attorney Gary Stern told colleagues at the agency that he had spoken with Cannon and that Cannon said he did not know if there were any more relevant documents in Trump’s possession, according to people familiar with the matter. Stern had asked the Trump team to confirm that all relevant documents had been returned and privately feared that had not been the case, those people said.
Months earlier, in late 2021, when archives were calling for the return of certain presidential documents, Cannon had told Stern that there may be more documents in Trump’s possession than he submitted to the agency, but he didn’t know how or anything else. Cannon also told Stern he wasn’t sure where all the documents are or what the documents are, according to people familiar with the talks.
According to a report given to Stern’s colleagues, Stern also asked Trump attorney Pat Philbin if there were any additional documents, the people said. Philbin, through a spokesman, declined to comment on this article.
Cannon’s refusal to explain that everything was returned soured his relationship with Trump, people familiar with the matter said. Cannon, who had worked for the Trump Organization since 2015, was soon cut from document-related discussions, some of the people said, as Trump relied on more combative advisers.
Trump’s legal team has been at odds over how to handle the Mar-a-Lago investigation
Another question that worried Cannon and others was whether any material in the returned boxes could be classified, people familiar with the matter said. Cannon did not have security clearance and did not check the boxes himself, one of the people said. He had told other aid workers not to check the boxes either, as doing so could get them into trouble, these people said.
A total of 184 classified documents were found in the returned boxes, officials said.
Trump’s team later returned 38 more classified documents to the Justice Department in June in response to the May 11 grand jury subpoena seeking any documents still at Mar-a-Lago that bore classified markings.
In August, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, believing there was more classified material at Mar-a-Lago, obtained a search warrant and seized more than 27 other boxes of material. During their search, the agents retrieved 11 sets of classified material – a total of about 100 documents. Some of them contained closely guarded US government secrets, people familiar with the matter said, including information about a foreign nation’s nuclear capabilities.
In response to the May subpoena, other Trump advisers agreed to claim that all the documents sought had been returned. Evan Corcoran, who replaced Cannon, told the Justice Department he would turn over any relevant materials, people familiar with the matter said. Christina Bobb, another Trump attorney, signed a document saying she was advised that after a diligent search, Trump’s team turned over all relevant documents.
The National Archives preserve all of the President’s records in accordance with the Presidential Records Act, which states that “all records made or received by the President in the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or ceremonial duties are the property of the United States Government and are controlled by NARA.” be administered at the end of administration.”
Rosalind S. Helderman and Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.