In a raid earlier this month, the FBI recovered dozens of classified documents at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and resort, months after Trump’s lawyers swore they’d turned everything over to the government. Federal prosecutors filed a startling photo of some of those documents in court Tuesday, and said they’d found evidence of a likely effort to obstruct their investigation into missing federal records.
Luckily, the Trump asserted Wednesday, he’d already declassified all of those classified documents the FBI recovered. Wow! What a relief. It was beginning to look like federal investigators had secured evidence of serious criminal wrongdoing by the former President!
“Terrible the way the FBI, during the Raid of Mar-a-Lago, threw documents haphazardly all over the floor (perhaps pretending it was me that did it!), and then started taking pictures of them for the public to see,” Trump said in a post on his Truth Social account Wednesday morning.
“Thought they wanted them kept Secret? Lucky I Declassified!”
There are a few stubborn problems remaining for Trump, though.
First, given the opportunity, his attorneys have not claimed anything about him declassifying documents in any official capacity. (His team has put out media statements arguing without evidence that Trump had some sort of declassification “standing order” as president.)
For example, when they produced documents from Trump’s home in June, “neither counsel nor the custodian asserted that the former President had declassified the documents or asserted any claim of executive privilege,” prosecutors said in Tuesday’s court filing.
“Instead, counsel handled them in a manner that suggested counsel believed that the documents were classified: the production included a single Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in tape, containing the documents.”
Trump’s assertion echoed a perfectly-timed “report” earlier this month from right-wing journalist John Solomon, who also happens to be one of Trump’s representatives to the National Archives, in which Trump’s office asserted that Trump had a standing order as President to basically telepathically de-classify all classified documents when he took them home from work. But no one else at the White House seems to remember such an order.
More bad news for Trump: The classification status of the documents isn’t actually the issue.
Rather, it’s that he had any government documents at all in his home post-presidency — when he is a regular private citizen like anyone else – and, also, that federal investigators seem to think an effort was made to hide that fact.
In June, one of Trump’s records custodians – believed to be Christina Bobb, one of Trump’s lawyers and former One America News Network host – signed a letter stating that a “diligent search was conducted of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida,” and that Trump’s team was, at the time, handing over everything they’d found. (Recall this is more than a year after Trump left office.)
But at the time, according to prosecutors, Trump’s counsel prohibited investigators from opening certain boxes in a Mar-a-Lago storage room.
And, now that the raid produced more sensitive documents at Trump’s home, prosecutors wrote Tuesday of a likely alleged obstruction attempt.
“The government also developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” the filing read.
Prosecutors added later: “That the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the ‘diligent search’ that the former President’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to perform calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter.”