New reporting indicates that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had requested that Donald Trump return government documents even while he was still in office — debunking the former president’s claims that the Execution of a search warrantHis Mar-a-Lago property was not able to retrieve the documents earlier in the month.
An email from NARA chief counsel Gary Stern in May of 2021 that was recently made public shows that he and other agency officials — along with Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel at the time — had requested that Trump return the documents during the final days of his administration.
While at work, Trump regularly took government documentsTo the White House Residence Wing, where they would be stacked upon each other and rarely returned.
The May email to Trump lawyers demonstrates that the agency was eager for the documents to be returned nearly 100 days after Trump left office.
“We know things are very chaotic, as they always are in the course of a one-term transition…But it is absolutely necessary that we obtain and account for all presidential records,” wrote Stern, who has served as chief counsel of NARA since 1998.
According to The Washington PostThrough fall 2021, the agency continued to press Trump advisors to get the documents back. Trump was forced to return some documents by the agency, and Congress was threatened. NARA officials eventually retrieved fifteen boxes from Mar-a-Lago.
Not all of the documents were returned. NARA discovered some of the documents had been returned. they had retrieved were classifiedIn June, the Department of Justice (DOJ), subpoenaed Trump and ordered him to return more classified documents.
As part of the subpoena Trump was required to sign a statement attesting that he had returned all classified materialsHe had one of his lawyers do it on his behalf. But after an informer — and surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago — alerted the DOJ to the fact that more classified material was being kept at the estate, the FBI executed a search warrant in early August to retrieve the missing documents.
The new reporting from The Washington Post contradicts Trump’s claim that he was “working and cooperating with the relevant government agencies” prior to the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago.
Mar-a-Lago has seen more than 300 boxes containing classified documents removedSince the beginning of the year. Some documents contain information about the FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency. It’s also possible that some of the documents contain information about nuclear weapons.
The DOJ warrants that have been released so far indicate that the department is investigating possible violations of the Espionage Act. This law is used to prosecute individuals who misuse government information to the disadvantage of U.S. interests overseas. It is most commonly used to prosecute whistleblowers as well as antiwar activists.
In a legal filing that his lawyers submitted earlier in the week, Trump demanded that the documents are returned to him, citing his supposed “executive privilege.”
“If he’s acknowledging that he’s in possession of documents that would have any colorable claim of executive privilege, those are by definition presidential records and belong at the National Archives,” said Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent and former associate dean at Yale Law School.