“We also understand that approximately two dozen boxes of original presidential records were kept in the White House residence during President Trump’s last year in office and were not transferred to NARA, despite a Pat Cipollone’s decision in the final days of the administration they need,” National Archives and Records Administration chief counsel Gary Stern wrote in an email to members of Trump’s legal team. in May 2021, according to the Post.
CNN confirmed the content of the email.
A Cipollone spokeswoman declined to comment to the Post on Wednesday.
The Post noted that Stern “does not say in the email how he determined the boxes were in Trump’s possession” and that he also said in the email that he “raised this concern with Scott over the past few weeks,” referring to Scott Gast, another Trump lawyer who received a copy of the message.
And Stern, the newspaper said, cited in the email two notable documents that his agency “knew at the time were missing — letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a letter from former President Barack Obama at the start of Trump’s presidency”.
“We know things are very chaotic, as they always are during a term transition,” he wrote in the email, according to the Post. “…But it is absolutely necessary that we obtain and report on all presidential records.”
Cipollone, along with his former deputy Patrick Philbin, were appointed by Trump shortly before he left office to deal with issues related to his presidential records.
The National Archives previously said at least 15 boxes of White House documents were recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in January, some of which were classified. And in its search earlier this month, the FBI recovered 11 sets of classified documents, including some documents marked as “top secret/SCI” – one of the highest classification levels.
The Archives knew that White House Archives Management had identified missing documents even before Trump left office, according to a source familiar. Additionally, the Archives was aware of the two dozen boxes in the residence even while Trump was in office, the source said.
There was no inventory or documentation of what exactly was in those boxes.
Shortly after Trump’s departure, negotiations for the return of the documents between the Archives and Trump’s team began, according to the source familiar. There were repeated phone calls and communications to try to retrieve the boxes, but to no avail, the source said.
In January, Trump agreed to return 15 boxes — not the 24 boxes the Archives was aware of — that were kept at his residence in Mar-a-Lago — boxes that the Archives said contained classified documents.
CNN’s Evan Perez and Gabby Orr contributed to this report.