When the Justice Department searched Mar-a-Lago last month, it found not only reams of documents, but empty folders, marked classified.
It raised a question: what was supposed to be in those folders? Or, rather: after one and a half years of stonewalling the National Archives, and then the DOJ, was Trump still holding government — and, potentially — classified records?
According to a letter from House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), National Archives officials believe that may be the case.
NARA employees told panel staff on Aug. 24 that “the agency is not certain whether all presidential records are in its custody,” the letter says.
Maloney addressed the Sept. 13 letter to NARA Chief Debra Steidel Wall, asking for an “urgent review” to determine what Trump-era records may remain “outside of the agency’s custody and control,” and for the agency to seek a “personal certification” from Trump, averring that he has surrendered all presidential records to the government.
NARA’s lack of certainty about whether Trump gave up all of the government records in his possession follows months and months of the former President stalling for time as various federal agencies attempted to retrieve the records.
The archives began attempts to retrieve the records in the months after Trump left office, but the former President did not agree to hand over any records until December 2021. A tranche of 15 boxes left Mar-a-Lago for NARA in January 2022, at which point archives officials found classified-marked records in the documents.
That led to a DOJ probe and, after further stalling from Trump and alleged defiance of a grand jury subpoena, the FBI seized records remaining at Mar-a-Lago in August.
But it remains unclear whether the records returned to the government in August constitute the whole of what Trump took. He maintains several residences; federal prosecutors signaled in a recent filing that this is a focus of their investigation.
Maloney’s panel has played a low-profile but important role in exposing elements of the scandal. In correspondence between NARA and the committee, archives officials revealed that they made a criminal referral over the matter, and suggested that the DOJ had begun an investigation.
Maloney said that there was “serious risk” that more records remain with Trump.