Here’s a look at the facts, as we know them today, surrounding five of the public arguments Trump and his team made in the wake of the search.
The Justice Department said in a lawsuit this week that the Mar-a-Lago house search resulted in the seizure of more than 100 unique documents with classification markings. But in posts on his social media platform, Trump has argued that he had released all the documents in his possession.
“Number one, it was all released,” he wrote in a post on Aug. 12. “Lucky I Declassified!” he wrote in a message this Wednesday.
Trump’s comments about this alleged declassification were very vague. But conservative writer John Solomon, one of the people Trump named as a representative in his dealings with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), was more specific in one Fox release on August 12
. Solomon read out a statement, which he said was from Trump’s office, in which he claimed that Trump “had an ongoing assignment…
Facts First: Trump and his team have not provided any evidence that Trump has actually carried out any sort of broad declassification of the documents that ended up at Mar-a-Lago — and so far his lawyers, notably in their court files, have not argued that Trump did. so did. Eighteen Former Top Trump Administration Officials, including two former White House chiefs of staff speaking officially, told CNN in August that they had never heard of a permanent declassification order from Trump when they served in the administration and that they now believe the claim is false. The former officials used words like ‘ridiculous’, ‘ridiculous’ and ‘bullshit’.
“Total nonsense,” said one person who was a senior White House official. “If that is true, where is the warrant with his signature on it? If that was the case, there would have been a massive backlash from the Intel community and DoD, which would almost certainly have become known to Intel and Armed Services Committees on the Hill.”
It’s important to note that the laws under which the Department of Justice now investigates possible crimes — statutes about intentionally retaining national defense information, obstructing a federal investigation, and concealing or removing government records — do not require documents. to be classified for a crime that has been committed. (A grand jury subpoena in May and the search warrant in August both sought documents with “classification marks,” not specifically documents currently classified.) Also, big questions would be raised about the legality of a general “permanent warrant” to automatically declassify any document. that Trump has performed from a particular room.
But first and foremost, Trump has shown no confirmation for the claim that he issued such an order.
The Justice Department said in the court filing this week that Trump’s representatives never claimed documents had been released, even when they voluntarily handed over 15 boxes containing 184 unique documents with classification markings in January (after an extensive back and forth with NARA). or when responding to the grand jury subpoena in June, when they returned another package of documents containing 38 additional unique documents with classification markings.
— Jamie Gangel, Elizabeth Stuart, and Jeremy Herb of CNN contributed to this item.
The claim: The FBI could have just asked for the documents
Trump has argued that the search was unnecessary because federal investigators could have simply asked for his team’s documents, which he claimed were fully cooperative.
“They could have had it whenever they wanted – and that included LONG ago. ALL they had to do was ASK,” Trump posted on his social media platform on Aug.
Facts First: It’s not true that federal investigators long ago could have gotten the government documents into Trump’s possession just by asking. By the time of the search, the federal government had asked Trump: for more than a year to return records of his presidency. Even when the Justice Department went beyond questions in May and served Trump’s team subpoena for the return of all documents with classification marks, Trump’s team returned only a few of those documents — and then, in June, Trump signed -lawyer Christina Bobb a document certify on behalf of Trump’s office that all documents had been returned, although that was not true.
In other words, Trump claimed the Justice Department could have just asked for the documents “LONG ago,” even though his team explicitly and inaccurately told the department in June that there were no more documents to ask for. In connection with this, the department has questioned how cooperative Trump’s team was.
In the court filing this week, the department alleged that investigators “developed evidence that government documents were likely hidden and removed from the storage facility” at Mar-a-Lago “and that attempts were likely made to obstruct the government’s investigation. “. They said of the August search: “That the FBI recovered twice as many documents with classification markings in hours as the ‘diligent search’ that took the former president’s counsel and other representatives weeks to seriously question the statements. in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the degree of cooperation in this matter.”
The claim: it was the bureaucrats’ fault
A member of Trump’s team has tried to blame the General Services Administration, a federal agency that provides transitional office space and assistance services to the outgoing president.
Kash Patel, a former Trump administration official who was appointed by Trump as another NARA representative, said on Fox Aug. 12 that “the GSA has since come out, the Government (sic) Services Administration, and said that they accidentally packed some boxes and sent them to Mar-a-Lago. That’s not up to the president. It’s up to the National Archives to sort that material out.” Patel said that even if material was classified, which is “highly unlikely”, the fact that the GSA put the material in a box should have been “the end” of the matter.
Facts First: The GSA has repeatedly denied Patel’s claim. The agency say it played no part in deciding which documents from Trump’s outgoing transitional office in Virginia to box or which boxes to send to Mar-a-Lago — and that these decisions were made solely by Trump’s team.
A GSA spokesperson said in a statement last week that it was Trump’s team, not the GSA, that packed the boxes and that it was Trump’s team, not the GSA, that put these boxes on pallets and shrink-wrapped them. for shipment from Trump’s transition office in Virginia. GSA did sign a support contract for the actual shipment in September 2021, but “not for the packaging of the boxes”, the spokesperson said – and “GSA did not examine the contents of the boxes and therefore had no knowledge of the contents before shipment. ”
It’s not clear how many of the government documents recovered at Mar-a-Lago were part of the September 2021 shipments from Virginia. It is theoretically possible that some documents were brought to Mar-a-Lago at different times and in different ways.
– Kristen Holmes of CNN contributed to this item.
The Claim: The FBI May Have Planted Evidence
Trump lawyer Alina Habba said
on Fox on August 9, “I’m afraid they planted something; who knows at this point?” The next day, Trump suggested on social media that it was shady that the FBI would not allow witnesses, such as his lawyers, to be in the rooms being searched and “see what they did, name or, hopefully not, plant”. ‘”
: There is no evidence whatsoever that the FBI planted anything in Mar-a-Lago. And it is routine, not suspected, for searches without witnesses such as lawyers being present in the room; lawyers have no right to look.
The claim about possible “plantings” is impossible to debunk definitively at this point. But then again, Trump and his allies have not even shown a shred of evidence that it is true.
The claim: Obama seized tens of millions of documents
The week of the search, Trump turned to a well-known tactic under pressure: to confuse the public by making false claims about former President Barack Obama. Trump claimed Obama had taken tens of millions of documents to Chicago, Obama’s adopted birthplace and the site of his future library and museum.
In a post on social media on August 11, Trump wrote wrote
What happened to the 30 million pages of documents that Barack Hussein Obama took from the White House to Chicago? He refused to return them! What’s going on? This act was very much at odds with NARA. Will they break into Obama’s “country house” in Martha’s Vineyard?” In another statement on Aug. 12, Trump claimed, “President Barack Hussein Obama kept 33 million pages of documents, many of them classified.”
Facts First: Trump’s claims about Obama are completely false — and the National Archives and Records Administration has a official statement make that clear. The statement explained that all of Obama’s presidential records remain in NARA’s “exclusive legal and physical custody”; that it was NARA, not Obama, who brought about 30 million records to a NARA facility in the Chicago area; that the records it brought to the Chicago facility are unclassified; and that secret Obama records are in another NARA facility.
NARA has more information about the plan for Obama’s presidential records here.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed to this article.