FBI research on Mar-a-Lago helps show how investigation into Trump documents has changed

In the months before the FBI dramatic move to execute a search warrant at former President Donald Trump’s Florida home – and open his safe to search for items – federal authorities have grown increasingly concerned that Trump or his attorneys and aides did not, in fact, , returned all documents and other items that were government property, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Officials became suspicious that when Trump returned items to the National Archives about seven months ago, either the former president or people close to him had key documents – despite a Department of Justice investigation in the processing of 15 boxes of material sent to the private club and the residence of the former president during the last days of his administration.

Over months of discussions on the matter, some officials also came to suspect that Trump’s representatives were sometimes not being truthful, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an investigation. In progress.

On Tuesday, a lawyer for Trump said officers who brought the court-approved warrant to Mar-a-Lago a day earlier took about 12 more boxes after conducting their search.

Garland has vowed to depoliticize justice. Then the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago

People familiar with the investigation said Justice Department and FBI officials visited Mar-a-Lago this spring, a meeting first reported by CNN. Officials spoke to Trump’s representatives, inspected the storage space where the documents were kept and expressed concern that the former president or people close to him still had items that should be in the custody of the government, these people said.

At this point, National Archives officials had 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 those investigations said. . Like the others, they spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the investigation.

Christina Bobb, a lawyer for Trump, said her attorneys began discussions with the Justice Department this spring about the documents held at Mar-a-Lago. At that time, the former president’s legal team searched through two to three dozen boxes in a storage area, looking for documents that could be considered presidential records, and turned over several items that might answer the definition, she said.

In June, Bobb said, she and Trump attorney Evan Corcoran met with Jay Bratt, the head of the counterintelligence and export controls section at the Justice Department, as well as several investigators. Trump stopped at the meeting as he began to greet investigators but was not questioned. The attorneys showed the boxes to federal officials, and Bratt and the others spent some time going through the material.

Bobb said Justice Department officials said they didn’t believe the storage unit was properly secured, so Trump officials added a lock to the facility. When FBI agents searched the property on Monday, Bobb added, they broke through the lock that had been added to the door.

The FBI removed a dozen boxes that had been stored in the basement storage area, she said. Bobb did not share the search warrant left by officers, but said it indicated officers were investigating possible violations of laws relating to the handling of classified documents and the Presidential Archives Act.

Trump aides also declined to share the search warrant with The Washington Post.

What could the Mar-a-Lago raid mean for Trump?

Trump announced on Monday that the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago and searched his safe, decrying the move as the latest unfair action against him by the Justice Department and the FBI. Spokespersons for both agencies declined to comment.

Asked on Tuesday whether the former president or his advisers hid documents or lied, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich called the FBI action “not only unprecedented, but totally unnecessary.”

“President Trump and his representatives have made considerable efforts to communicate and cooperate with the appropriate agencies,” Budowich said in an emailed statement. “In the Democrats’ desperate bid to hold on to power, they have unified and grown the entire conservative movement.”

An adviser who spoke to Trump after the search said the former president seemed energized by the development, bragging about the number of Republicans who publicly supported him, and said Trump believed the search would help him politically in the end. . The adviser spoke on condition of anonymity to speak of a private conversation.

Another adviser, former spokesman Jason Miller, said, “It reinforces his urge to run and galvanizes the Republican base on his behalf.”

Analysis: Donald Trump has been waiting for this moment for a long time

Some of Trump’s advisers have urged him to fast-track his planned announcement that he will run for president in 2024 and do so soon at Mar-a-Lago, with the FBI search as a backdrop. But Trump has not committed to doing so, said a person with direct knowledge of the conversations, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the private exchanges.

Two people familiar with the initial recovery of the materials at Mar-a-Lago, who also spoke on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing investigation, said Archives officials believed there were more documents missing and were skeptical that Trump had handed it all over. . As the investigation grew, some Trump advisers sought to stay away from the matter, fearing it could turn into a messy legal and political situation, according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke under anonymous to reveal private conversations.

After Monday’s search, attorneys close to Trump sought advice or recommendations from criminal defense attorneys who could represent Trump, a person familiar with attorneys said. According to this person, the lawyers said the warrant was related to allegations that classified information was kept by Trump.

Trump already has a number of attorneys working for him, but it’s not uncommon for people facing investigative activity to seek out local attorneys to navigate a particular judicial district.

Some top Republicans echo Trump’s unproven claims discrediting FBI research

Dozens of die-hard Trump supporters came to West Palm Beach on Tuesday to show their support. Adriane Shochet, 64, of Lake Worth, Fla., bought a $14 broomstick, which she tied to an American flag and waved as she stood on the causeway overlooking part of Mar- a-Lago.

“I just needed to come out and show everyone free that it’s scary, and if they can do it, what’s next?” Shochet said. “It’s the polar opposite of the political effect they thought they were getting, because all it does is politically empower the right.”

Passing motorists honked their horns in support. A man stood on the bridge, which crosses the Intracoastal Waterway, holding the American flag upside down – widely recognized as a symbol of his belief that the country is in distress.

Pat Stewart, 85, found the “Trump 2020” flag flying at her home in Jupiter, Florida, which she expected to keep hidden until the next presidential election. For the next few hours, she stood in the sun alongside a friend from Michigan, who is also 85, waving to passing motorists.

“I was very angry, very angry and very upset that our government would do this to an ex-president,” Stewart said. Although aides said Trump was in New York and at his golf club and residence in Bedminster, NJ, this week, she remained hopeful he was at Mar-a-Lago.

“We want him to come out and announce he’s running for president,” Stewart said.

A person familiar with the investigation said officers were carrying out a court-authorized search as part of a lengthy examination to find out why the documents – some of them top secret – were taken to the former president’s private club and residence instead of being shipped to the National Archives and Records Administration when Trump left office. The Presidential Records Act requires retention of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes, and other written communications related to a president’s official duties.

15 Boxes: Inside Trump’s Long and Strange Journey of Classified Files

In January, the National Archives recovered 15 boxes of documents and other items from Mar-a-Lago. David S. Ferriero, then the Archivist of the United States, said in a statement in February that Trump officials “continue to search” for additional documents.

Trump resisted handing over some of the boxes for months, some people close to the president said, and believed that many of the items belonged to him personally and not to the government. He eventually agreed to hand over some of the documents, “giving them what he believed they were entitled to”, in the words of an adviser.

Tim Craig of West Palm Beach, Florida contributed to this report.

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