Trump lawyer Alex Cannon declined in February to say all documents returned

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Former President Donald Trump asked one of his attorneys to tell the National Archives and Records Administration in early 2022 that Trump had returned all materials requested by the agency, but the attorney declined because he wasn’t sure the statement was true, according to people known. be with matter.

It turned out that thousands of government documents — including some top-secret secrets — were left behind at Trump’s residence and private club in Mar-a-Lago. The subsequent discovery of those documents, through a grand jury subpoena in May and the August 8 FBI investigation of the Florida property, are at the heart of a criminal investigation into the possible mishandling of classified material and the possible hide, tamper with or destroy government records.

Alex Cannon, a Trump attorney, had facilitated the transfer of 15 boxes of presidential records from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives in January after archives fought more than a year to get “all the original presidential records” back. what they are required by law to do. After months of opposition from Trump representatives, filing officials threatened to involve the Justice Department or Congress.

Trump ended up packing the boxes himself that were returned in January, people familiar with the matter said. The former president seemed determined in February to declare that all material sought by the archives had been turned over, said the people, who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

Deep in busy Mar-a-Lago, a warehouse where secrets were kept

Around the same time that The Washington Post reported that the archives had retrieved documents from Mar-a-Lago, people said, Trump asked his team to release a statement he dictated. The statement said Trump had returned “everything” the records had asked for. Trump asked Cannon to send a similar message to archive officials, the people said. In addition, the former president told his aides that the documents in the boxes were “newspaper clippings” and irrelevant to the records, two of these people said, complaining that the agency tasked with tracking government records was being fussy about securing the files. materials from his Florida club.

But Cannon, a former Trump Organization attorney who worked for the campaign and for Trump post-presidency, told Trump he couldn’t tell the records that all of the requested material had been returned. He told others he wasn’t sure if there were any other documents in the club and would be uncomfortable making such a claim, those familiar with the matter said. Other Trump advisers also encouraged Cannon not to make such a final statement, people familiar with the matter said.

The Feb. 7 statement that Trump dictated was never released due to concerns from some of his team that it was incorrect, people familiar with the matter said. Another statement released three days later said Trump had given boxes of material to the archives in a “friendly” manner. It did not say that all materials had been handed over.

“The papers were given easily and without conflict and on a very friendly basis, which is different from the accounts prepared by the fake news media,” the statement said on Feb. 10. who came on the same day. The Washington Post reported that classified material had been found in the 15 boxes.

A Trump spokesperson did not respond to specific questions for this article, but instead issued a statement in which the Justice Department said: “has no greater ally than the Bezos-funded Washington Post, which seems to serve only as the partisan microphone of leakers and liars buried deep in the bowels of the US government. President Trump remains committed to defending the Constitution and the office of the presidency and ensuring the integrity of America for generations to come.” (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Cannon did not respond to a detailed email asking for comment about his interactions with Trump and the records.

Trump and the Mar-a-Lago Documents: A Timeline

Whether Trump — or anyone else — knew there was additional government material in Mar-a-Lago after the return of the 15 boxes has become a focal point of the Justice Department’s investigation.

Attempts to get Trump’s representatives to falsely state that he had no presidential records in his possession could serve as evidence that he intentionally and knowingly withheld documents. And if Trump continued to pressure his aides to make false statements even after learning that the Justice Department was involved in retrieving the documents, authorities could see those efforts as an attempt to broaden their investigation. to hinder.

Even as Trump tried to convey that he had fully complied with the filing request, Cannon appears to have relayed a different message to agency officials.

According to people familiar with the case, filing attorney Gary Stern told agency colleagues on Feb. 8: that he had spoken to Cannon and that Cannon said he did not know if there were any more relevant documents in Trump’s possession. Stern had asked the Trump team to confirm that all relevant documents had been returned, and personally feared it had not, these people said.

Months earlier, in late 2021, as the archives searched for the return of specific presidential documents, Cannon had… told Stern there could be more documents in Trump’s possession than what he forwarded to the desk, but he somehow didn’t know that. Cannon also told Stern he wasn’t sure where all the documents were, or what the documents were, according to people familiar with the conversations.

According to an account given to Stern’s colleagues, Stern also asked Trump attorney Pat Philbin if there were more documents, the people said. Philbin declined to comment on this article through a spokesperson.

Cannon’s refusal to declare that everything had been returned worsened his relationship with Trump, people familiar with the matter said. Cannon, who had worked for the Trump organization since 2015, was soon barred from the documents-related discussions, some people said, as Trump relied on more combative advisers.

Trump’s legal team divided on how to handle the Mar-a-Lago probe

Another concern for Cannon and others was whether the material in the returned boxes could be classified, people familiar with the matter said. Cannon had no security clearance and hadn’t looked at the boxes himself, one of the people said. He had told other assistants not to look at the boxes either, because he said it could get them in trouble, these people said.

A total of 184 classified documents were found in the returned boxes, officials said.

Trump’s team later returned 38 additional classified documents to the Justice Department in June in response to the May 11 subpoena of the May 11 grand jury seeking documents still in Mar-a-Lago that classified carried markings.

In August, believing there was even more classified material in Mar-a-Lago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a search warrant to search the property and seize more than 27 additional boxes of material. During their search, agents found 11 sets of classified material – about 100 documents in all. Some of them contain closely guarded secrets from the US government, people familiar with the matter said, including information about another country’s nuclear capabilities.

In response to May’s subpoena, other Trump aides agreed to claim that all requested documents had been returned. Evan Corcoran, who replaced Cannon, told the Justice Department he handed over all relevant materials, people familiar with the case said. Christina Bobb, another Trump attorney, signed a document saying she was told that Trump’s team had handed over all relevant documents after a careful search.

The National Archives maintains all presidential records under the Presidential Records Act, which states that “all records created or received by the President as part of his constitutional, statutory, or ceremonial duties are the property of the United States Government and shall be managed by NARA at the end of the administration.”

Rosalind S. Helderman and Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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