Documents recovered at Mar-a-Lago were among government’s most classified, letter shows

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/23/national-archives-letter-trump-security-00053250

In the letter, posted on a Trump-aligned journalist’s website, the National Archives pushed back on Trump’s privilege claims.

A person walks past the United States National Archives building.
 

The National Archives found more than 700 pages of classified material — including “special access program materials,” some of the most highly classified secrets in government — in 15 boxes recovered from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in January, according to correspondence between the National Archivist and his legal team.

The May 10 letter — posted late Monday on the website of John Solomon, a conservative journalist and one of Trump’s authorized liaisons to the National Archives to review papers from his presidency — showed that NARA and federal investigators had grown increasingly alarmed about potential damage to national security caused by the warehousing of these documents at Mar-a-Lago, as well as by Trump’s resistance to sharing them with the FBI.

These records included 700 pages of classified material, according to the letter, sent by National Archivist Debra Wall to Trump’s attorney, Evan Corcoran, and it doesn’t include records recovered by the Justice Department and FBI during a June meeting and the Aug. 11 search of the Mar-a-Lago premises.

Wall’s letter describes earlier correspondence in which Trump’s team objected to disclosing the contents of the 15 boxes to the FBI.

“As you are no doubt aware, NARA had ongoing communications with the former President’s representatives throughout 2021 about what appeared to be missing Presidential records, which resulted in the transfer of 15 boxes of records to NARA in January 2022,” Wall wrote. “In its initial review of materials within those boxes, NARA identified items marked as classified national security information, up to the level of Top Secret and including Sensitive Compartmented Information and Special Access Program materials.”

NARA aides did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter, and Corcoran could not immediately be reached.

The correspondence shows that even though NARA retrieved the 15 boxes in January, Justice Department and FBI investigators didn’t see their contents until May, after extended negotiations with Trump’s representatives. The letter also shows that in the interim, DOJ asked President Joe Biden to authorize NARA to provide the records to investigators despite an effort by Trump to claim executive privilege over the records. Wall indicated she had rejected Trump’s claim because of the significance of the documents to national security.

 
 

“NARA informed the Department of Justice about that discovery, which prompted the Department to ask the President to request that NARA provide the FBI with access to the boxes at issue so that the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community could examine them,” Wall wrote.

Biden, according to Wall, then delegated the privilege decision to her, in consultation with the Justice Department.

Wall noted that typical restrictions on access to presidential records carve out an exception for incumbent administrations. And she described an April 29 letter from DOJ’s National Security Division describing their pursuit of these documents: “There are important national security interests in the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community getting access to these materials.”

“Access to the materials is not only necessary for purposes of our ongoing criminal investigation, but the Executive Branch must also conduct an assessment of the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials were stored and transported and take any necessary remedial steps,” according to the DOJ letter. “Accordingly, we are seeking immediate access to these materials so as to facilitate the necessary assessments that need to be conducted within the Executive Branch.”

Wall indicated that Archives had notified Trump on April 12 of the FBI’s “urgency” to review the documents but delayed transmitting them at the behest of Trump’s team.

“It has now been four weeks since we first informed you of our intent to provide the FBI access to the boxes so that it and others in the Intelligence Community can conduct their reviews,” Wall wrote. “ Notwithstanding the urgency conveyed by the Department of Justice and the reasonable extension afforded to the former President, your April 29 letter asks for additional time for you to review the materials in the boxes ‘in order to ascertain whether any specific document is subject to privilege,’ and then to consult with the former President “so that he may personally make any decision to assert a claim of constitutionally based privilege.’”

Wall said she consulted with the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel and had decided not honor that request.

“The question in this case is not a close one,” she wrote.

“The Executive Branch here is seeking access to records belonging to, and in the custody of, the Federal Government itself, not only in order to investigate whether those records were handled in an unlawful manner but also, as the National Security Division explained, to ‘conduct an assessment of the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials were stored and transported and take any necessary remedial steps.’”

 

7 thoughts on “Documents recovered at Mar-a-Lago were among government’s most classified, letter shows

  1. When push comes to shove … is ANYONE surprised at tRump’s actions? In this and so many other ways, he has displayed his personal appraisal of himself as “above” all the “lesser” folk in government. Only HIS actions are acceptable and devoid of criticism.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Now it is past time to put a stop to this, though. If we’d put a stop to it after Watergate, we would not have gotten Grenada and Iran-Contra. And had we put a stop to it then, we would not have had the more recent Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, along with several small but significant changes to things that US people depend upon. All of these administrations, for their own purposes, took Treasury dollars-our money-that could have been applied to progress. We just lived through what the Trump admin. has done, along with how much money it’s costing we the people.

      If we don’t put a stop to it now, 1/6/22 will be a fairly accurate preview/training exercise for the minority going for what the minority want. If it was Dems, we know they’g be picked up by now. If it was us, we’d be at Guantanamo. This stuff must stop.

      Well, unless it’s what the majority want. In which case, we can look to history to see what will happen to most of us regular people, I’m glad I’m an old woman.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Hello Ali. Yes if we don’t punish the ones that instigated, incited, led, and did Jan 6th then it was only a dress rehearsal for the next time when they succeed in overturning a lawful election. I can only hope the sane people in this country were so horrified about what happened that we take the country back from the authoritarian fascist. What worries me is the republicans have doubled down, they are electing the worst most rabid of their candidates running for office. Scary. Hugs

          Liked by 2 people

            1. Hello Nan. Yes I agree. Based on the data a lot of people are waking up to the danger we are in. I just hope it is not too late. Think of the red states that gave themselves permission to just change who wins the elections, the many sec of states that are in charge of elections running who are election deniers. Don’t get me wrong I see hope right now but we can not take it for granted that even if we vote in numbers we will win. In Florida for example the districts have been so badly gerrymandered that to win the democrat has to win by 25% margins or more and we simply do not have those numbers here. The republicans under DeathSantis made sure his party cannot lose in Florida. That is how Florida went from a tossup state to solid red. I see a lot of support to get DeathSantis out of office, yet I don’t see how we can overcome the voter suppression that is in effect. Hugs

              Liked by 1 person

    2. Hello Nan. Yes trump thinks he is above the laws, he also thinks he is smarter than everyone else. But as we know he can hardly read so how did he end up with some of the most secret and therefore most valuable documents to sell or that would be sought after from other governments? How did he know which papers / documents to grab? Remember he would have had to ask for them, then arrange to pack them up or take them. He was not shoving stuff into boxes himself; he is too lazy and self-important for that. Those departments would know he asked for them, so they might be wondering why he had yet to turn them back in as he was getting ready to leave the office? Did those long calls with Putin that were off the records, and only he was on the calls from our side, did Putin tell him what to get? Did his advisors tell him and if so which advisors? Were some of them working for other governments? That is the scary issue here, who was working for an enemy government? Hugs

      Liked by 1 person

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