Wall’s letter details previous correspondence in which Trump’s team objected to releasing the contents of the 15 boxes to the FBI.
“As you are no doubt aware, throughout 2021 NARA communicated continuously with the former president’s representatives about what appeared to be missing from the presidential records, resulting in the transfer of 15 boxes of records to NARA in January 2022,” Wall wrote. “In its initial assessment of materials in those boxes, NARA identified items marked as classified national security information, up to the top secret level and including sensitive compartments and special access program material.”
NARA employees did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter and Corcoran was not immediately available.
Correspondence shows that although NARA picked up the 15 boxes in January, Justice Department and FBI investigators didn’t see their contents until May, after lengthy negotiations with Trump representatives. The letter also reveals that, in the meantime, the DOJ has asked President Joe Biden to authorize NARA to provide the records to investigators, despite an attempt by Trump to claim executive privilege over the records. Wall indicated that she had rejected Trump’s claim because of the importance of the documents to national security.
“NARA notified the Justice Department of that discovery, prompting the Department to ask the President to allow NARA the FBI access to the boxes in question so that the FBI and others in the intelligence community could investigate them,” Wall wrote. .
Biden then delegated the decision about the privilege to her, according to Wall, in consultation with the Justice Department.
Wall noted that typical restrictions on access to presidential documents are an exception for incumbent administrations. And she described an April 29 letter from DOJ’s National Security Division describing their pursuit of these documents, saying, “There are significant national security interests with the FBI and others in the intelligence community having access to this material.”
“Access to the materials is not only necessary for the purposes of our ongoing criminal investigation, but the executive should also assess the potential damage arising from the apparent manner in which these materials have been stored and transported and take appropriate remedial action, ‘ according to the DOJ letter. “Therefore, we are seeking immediate access to these materials to facilitate the necessary assessments to be made within the executive branch.”
Wall indicated that Archives notified Trump on April 12 of the FBI’s “urgency” to review the documents, but delayed their transmission at the behest of Trump’s team.
“It has now been four weeks since we first notified you of our intent to allow the FBI access to the boxes so that they and others in the intelligence community can conduct their assessments,” Wall wrote. “Despite the urgency conveyed by the Department of Justice and the reasonable extension granted to the former president, your April 29 letter asks you for additional time to review the materials in the boxes ‘to determine whether a specific document is subject to privileges,” and then to consult the former president “so that he may personally make a decision to assert a claim to constitutional privilege.”
Wall said she had consulted with the Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel and decided not to grant that request.
“The question in this case is not close,” she wrote.
“The executive here is accessing data belonging to and in the custody of the federal government itself, not only to investigate whether that data has been unlawfully handled, but also, as the National Security Division explained, to ‘an make an assessment of the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials have been stored and transported and take the necessary remedial action.’”