Even after months of asking nicely, the issuance of a grand jury subpoena, searches executed by FBI agents, and a federal indictment of Donald Trump, it’s far from clear that the government knows the location of all of the records that the former president took after leaving office.
The Trump indictment was chock-full with cameos by Mar-a-Lago employees, including military-grade Diet Coke valet Walt Nauta, discussing how and where to move boxes of records that included classified information, and one now-infamous photo of a bathroom (and shower) filled to the ceiling with stacks of boxes.
But prosecutors alleged in the indictment that the records didn’t only stay in Mar-a-Lago’s chandelier-bedecked bathrooms, ballrooms, and storage rooms. They claim in the document to know of at least two episodes in which Trump moved “boxes” to his estate and golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Trump brandished classified records at Bedminster, prosecutors say, including a supposed invasion plan of Iran and a map. CBS reported last week that Trump attorneys had told the DOJ that they couldn’t find the Iran invasion plan.
Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor who has also defended national security cases, told TPM that “we don’t know what happened with that document, but you can bet that they’ll be talking about it at trial.”
He added that questions around where the records went could supplement arguments about Trump’s motive in the case.
Prosecutors stop just short in the indictment of saying that the boxes that went to Bedminster contained the records.
But take a look at paragraph 32 of the indictment here:
Immediately after this paragraph in the indictment, federal prosecutors unveiled the only two allegations they make of Trump communicating the classified information to third parties, both instances allegedly occurred at Bedminster.
In the first instance, Trump, prosecutors wrote, “showed and described” the “plan of attack” (on what CNN reported was Iran) while meeting with two people working on Mark Meadows’ autobiography. That took place in July 2021, two months after, prosecutors wrote, Trump allegedly moved “boxes” from Mar-a-Lago to New Jersey.
In the second instance, in either August or September 2021, Trump allegedly brandished what prosecutors described as a “classified map” related to a military operation to a person from his PAC. When the person looked at the document, prosecutors said, Trump warned them not to get “too close.”
To be clear, prosecutors have not charged Trump with transmission of national defense information, only retention.
Prosecutors allege another Bedminster-related incident in the indictment, this time after a federal grand jury issued a subpoena for classified records at Mar-a-Lago.
Trump, prosecutors say, dispatched Walt Nauta to move documents away from Evan Corcoran, the attorney charged with conducting a search of Mar-a-Lago to fulfill the terms of the warrant.
After a May 23 meeting with Corcoran, prosecutors say, Trump “delayed his departure from The Mar-a-Lago Club to The Bedminster Club for the summer so that he would be present at The Mar-a-Lago Club on June 2,” when Corcoran was scheduled to return to conduct the search.
Trump’s family members were still preparing to travel north, prosecutors wrote.
In one May 30 text exchange between Nauta and a “Trump family member,” the relative messaged Nauta to say that “Plane will be full with luggage” and that “we will NOT have a room for them.”
Nauta purportedly replied that Trump “wanted to pick from them. I don’t imagine him wanting to take the boxes.”
Over the next few days, at Trump’s direction, Nauta removed 64 boxes out of the Mar-a-Lago storage room and returned 30 of them, leaving 34 out of Corcoran’s review, prosecutors alleged.
On June 3, the day that FBI agents and DOJ counterintelligence section chief Jay Bratt arrived at Mar-a-Lago to receive a certification that Trump attorneys had conducted a complete search of the premises for classified records, Nauta allegedly moved “Trump’s boxes” onto an airplane:
So, where did the records go?
Prosecutors stop short of explicitly saying that the “boxes” contained classified records. But in addition to including in the indictment the two allegations of Trump brandishing classified records at Bedminster, prosecutors said in a September 2022 court filing that they believed more classified records remained missing.
Brian Greer, a former attorney in the CIA general counsel’s office, told TPM that the question of where the documents went “amounts to circumstantial evidence that would be relevant to an obstruction charge, and to a lesser extent to the willfulness element of an Espionage Act charge.”
“You’re not required to prove motive under the Espionage Act — just that it was willful, that he knew it was unlawful. But I’d still think that if they had a story they would tell it, and it’s curious as to why they didn’t.”
The ultimate fate of those records is unclear from the indictment. CNN reported earlier this year that Trump attorneys conducted searches of his properties after the FBI swooped down on Mar-a-Lago in August 2022
Peter Carr, the spokesman for Special Counsel Jack Smith, declined to comment beyond the allegations in the indictment. Todd Blanche, an attorney for Trump, declined to comment.