The witness account and footage described in The Washington Post led the FBI to search a Florida residence and private club on August 8, providing a first-hand account of Trump’s actions and instructions. Potential offenses include embargo, destruction of government records or mishandling of classified information.
People familiar with the investigation said agents had collected witness accounts After Trump advisers received a subpoena in May for classified documents left at Mar-a-Lago, Trump told people to move boxes into his apartment. That description of events was corroborated by security-camera footage, which showed people moving boxes, The people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment.
Trump spokesman Taylor Pudovich declined to answer detailed questions for this article. “The Biden administration has weaponized law enforcement and fabricated a document hoax in a desperate bid to retain political power,” Budovich said in a statement. “Since the president has the ultimate authority to declassify records and which materials should be classified, every other president is given time and respect in relation to the administration of the documents.”
The Justice Department accused Budovich of “a persistent effort to leak false and misleading information to partisan allies in fake news.” Simply put, this is un-American.
The employee at Mar-a-Lago is cooperating with the Justice Department and has been interviewed multiple times by federal agents, who, familiar with the situation, declined to identify the worker.
In the first interview, the witness denied that these persons handled important documents or boxes containing such documents. As they gathered evidence, the agents decided to re-interview the witness, and the witness’ story changed dramatically, these people said. In a second interview, the witness described moving boxes at Trump’s request.
The witness, now considered a key part of the Mar-a-Lago investigation, said the people would provide details about the former president’s alleged actions and instructions to subordinates, possibly in an attempt to thwart federal authorities’ demands to withdraw classified material. and government documents.
Multiple witnesses told the FBI that Trump tried to talk the National Archives and Records Administration and the Justice Department into cooperating because those agencies had been trying to get back sensitive or historic government records for months, people familiar with the situation said.
But pleas from advisers and lawyers urging Trump to hand over those documents fell on deaf ears for Trump, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Trump was furious this spring A House Oversight Committee investigation has been launched, telling aides that they would “turn around” the situation, according to people who asked for his comments. “Those are my documents,” Trump said, according to an aide who spoke to him.
The details shared with The Post reveal two key parts of the criminal investigation that have been shrouded in secrecy until now: the account of a witness who worked for Trump and received instructions, and the availability of Mar-a-Lago’s security footage. It played an important role in corroborating the accounts of witnesses.
That evidence helped convince the FBI and Justice Department to seek a court-authorized search of Trump’s home, office and a storage room at Mar-a-Lago, which resulted in the seizure of 103 classified and held documents. May was not turned over to the government in response to the subpoena. Some documents Describes the most closely guarded US operations in the world Many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them. An August 8 search yielded about 11,000 unclassified documents.
The failure or potential refusal to return classified documents in response to a subpoena is at the center of the Justice Department’s Mar-a-Lago investigation, which is one Many high-level, ongoing studies Trump is involved. The former president remains a highly influential figure in the Republican Party and has openly talked about running for the White House again in 2024.
In Trump’s orbit, there have been months of squabbling accusations and theories about who might be cooperating with the federal government. Some of the former president’s closest aides continue to work with Trump, with FBI agents seen at their homes to question them and serve subpoenas.
Within the Justice Department and the FBI, witness accounts are kept confidential as agents continue to gather evidence in high-profile investigations. In addition to wanting to keep a lid on the information they have gathered so far, officials are concerned that the identity of the witness could become public or that the person could face harassment or threats from Trump supporters, people familiar with the situation said.
In Tuesday’s Supreme Court filing, Justice Department lawyers appeared to refer to witness accounts and video footage. When they wrote: “The FBI revealed evidence that the response to the grand jury subpoena was incomplete, and that classified documents may have been at Mar-a-Lago, and efforts may have been made to obstruct the investigation.”
After the August 8 search, Trump offered several public defenses as to why the classified documents were at Mar-a-Lago — He described confidential documents, suggesting that the FBI kept evidence during the search and that he may have had the right to keep classified documents as a former president. There are national security law experts Such claims have largely been rejectedThey sound stupid from afar.
Officials at the National Archives began retrieving the documents last year Some of the Trump administration’s presidential records — such as letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — remain unaccounted for and are believed to possibly be in Trump’s possession.
After months of back-and-forth, Trump conceded in January Turn over 15 boxes of material. When archivists examined the material, 184 documents were marked classified, including 25 top secrets. According to court filings, the boxes are scattered throughout in no particular order.
That discovery suggested to officials that Trump had not turned over all the classified documents he had. In May, a grand jury subpoena demanded the return of classified documents with different types of identification, including those used for secrets about nuclear weapons.
According to court documents, Trump’s advisers met with government agents and prosecutors at Mar-a-Lago in early June and handed over a sealed envelope containing 38 classified documents. Trump’s representatives, according to government filings He told the meeting that intensive search was conducted For all classified documents in the club.
That meeting that includes the visit Trump’s advisers said boxes of documents were kept in a storage roomAccording to government court filings, they did not satisfy investigators that they were not allowed to inspect the boxes they saw in the storage room.
Five days later, senior Justice Department official Jay Pratt wrote to Trump’s lawyers to remind them that Mar-a-Lago “does not include an approved secure location for storing classified information.” Pratt wrote that the classified documents “were not properly handled or stored in an appropriate location.”
“Accordingly, we request that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents were stored be preserved and that all boxes moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with other items in that room) be preserved in that room until further notice. should be preserved in their present state.
Agents continued to collect evidence that Trump did not comply with government requests or subpoenas. After considerable deliberation, Knowing that it was highly unusual for federal agents to search a former president’s home, they decided to get a judge’s approval to do so.
That Aug. 8 search, in a matter of hours, turned up 103 documents marked classified, including 18 top secret ones, according to court documents. A foreign country’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, have kept at least one document under wraps.