Trump Lawyer Told Justice Dept. That Classified Material Had Been Returned


At least one attorney for former President Donald J. Trump signed a written statement in June stating that all material marked as classified and kept in boxes in a storage room at Mr. Trump’s residence and club in Mar-a -Lago, has been returned to the government , said four people with knowledge of the document.

The written statement was made after a June 3 visit to Mar-a-Lago by Jay I. Bratt, the senior counterintelligence officer of the Department of Justice’s National Security Department.

The existence of the signed statement, which has not been previously reported, is a possible indication that Mr. Trump or his team were not fully willing to talk to federal investigators about the material. And it could help explain why a possible violation of a criminal statute related to obstruction was cited by the Department as a basis for the search for the search warrant used to initiate Monday’s day-long search of the former president’s home. to carry out, an extraordinary step that caused political shock.

It also helps to further explain the sequence of events that prompted the Justice Department’s decision to conduct the search after months of trying to resolve the matter through talks with Mr. Trump and his officials. team.

An inventory of materials recovered from Mr. Trump’s home released Friday revealed that during the search, FBI agents seized 11 sets of documents with some sort of confidential or classified marking on them, including some marked as “classified/TS/SCI” — abbreviation for “top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information.” Information categorized in this way is only intended to be viewed in a secure government facility.

The search included not only the storage room where boxes of materials known to the Justice Department were kept, but also Mr. Trump’s office and residence. The search warrant and inventory released Friday did not specify where in the Mar-a-Lago complex the documents marked as classified were found.

Mr Trump said Friday that he had released all of the material in his possession while he was still in office. He has provided no documentation that he had done so.

A spokesman for the former president, Taylor Budowich, said on Saturday: “As with any witch hunt previously fabricated by Democrats, the waters of this unprecedented and unnecessary raid are being carried by a media willing to run with suggestive leaks, unnamed sources and no hard facts.”

According to the search warrant, FBI agents were searching for evidence related to possible violations of the Espionage Act and a statute that prohibits the unlawful taking or destruction of government documents or records, as well as the Obstruction Act. No one has been charged in the case, and the search warrant itself does not mean that anyone will be.

Last year, officials at the National Archives discovered that Mr. Trump had taken a slew of documents and other government material with him when he left the White House at the end of his tumultuous term in January 2021. That material was allegedly sent to the archives under the terms of the Presidential Records Act.

Mr Trump returned 15 boxes of material in January this year. When archivists examined the material, they found many pages of documents with secret markings and referred the case to the Department of Justice, which began an investigation and convened a grand jury.

In the spring, the Justice Department issued a subpoena to Mr Trump asking for more documents believed to be in his possession. He was repeatedly urged by advisers to return what remained, despite what they described as his desire to keep certain documents.

In an effort to resolve the dispute, Mr. Bratt and other officials at Mar-a-Lago in early June and briefly met Mr. Trump. Two of Mr. Trump’s attorneys, M. Evan Corcoran and Christina Bobb, spoke with Mr. Bratt and a handful of investigators he traveled with, said people briefed about the meeting.

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Mr. Corcoran and Ms. Bobb showed Mr. Bratt and his team boxes of material Mr. Trump had brought from the White House and kept in a storage room, the people said.

According to two people briefed during the visit, Mr. Bratt and his team left with additional material marked classified, at which time they also received a written statement from a Trump attorney confirming that all material marked had been classified in the boxes had been turned over.

A short time after the meeting, according to people who had been informed, Mr. Bratt sent Mr. Corcoran an email telling him to get a more secure padlock for the room. Mr Trump’s team complied.

The Justice Department has also subpoenaed surveillance footage of Mar-a-Lago, including footage from outside the storage area. According to a person informed about the case, the images raised concerns among investigators about the handling of the material. It is not clear from which period the images come.

In recent months, investigators have been in contact with about half a dozen of Mr Trump’s current aides who knew how the documents were being handled, two people said about the approaches. According to one person familiar with the investigation, at least one witness provided investigators with information that led them to further press Mr. Trump for material.

Concerns about Mr Trump’s arrogant handling of classified information dates back to the early days of his administration. When Mr. Trump left office, President Biden quickly took the extraordinary step of banning him from receiving the intelligence briefings traditionally provided to former presidents, saying that Mr. Trump could not be trusted because of his “irregular behavior.”

The security of classified information at Mar-a-Lago was also a concern for government officials, even while Mr. Trump was in office. During his presidency, the administration built what is known as a SCIF — an information facility with sensitive compartments — for Mr Trump’s use while he was at the club.

On Thursday, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland made a public statement saying he had personally authorized the execution of a search warrant on Mr. Trump’s property, and indicated that the Justice Department would only take such a step. would have taken after trying less intrusive measures.

Shortly before Mr. Garland made the announcement, a person close to Mr. Trump contacted a Justice Department official to relay a message from the former president to the Attorney General. Mr. Trump wanted Mr. Garland to know that he had checked in with people across the country and found that they were outraged by the search.

“The country is on fire,” Mr Trump said, according to a person familiar with the exchange. “What can I do to reduce the heat?”

The next day, when a judge unlocked the warrant and inventory of items seized by the FBI, Mr. Trump alternately claimed he had done nothing wrong and also made the unfounded statement that officials may have planted evidence on him. .

Katie Benner reporting contributed.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
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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