Despite his boss’ demand, one of ex-President Donald Trump’s lawyers reportedly knew better than to claim in early 2022 that Trump had given back all the government records he’d unlawfully swiped at the end of his presidency.
The Washington Post, CNN, and the New York Times reported on Monday that soon after Trump returned 15 boxes of official documents to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in January, the ex-president directed the lawyer who had facilitated the transfer, Alex Cannon, to tell NARA that all the documents had been returned.
Cannon reportedly refused to do so because he wasn’t sure if that was true, especially since he had been working as Trump’s point of contact with the National Archives all the way in New York, far from Mar-a-Lago. (In fact, even some of Trump’s other advisers warned Cannon against making the claim, according to the Post.)
The ex-president reportedly got upset with Cannon (who had worked for the Trump Organization since 2015 and for Trump’s campaign) and yanked him away from matters dealing with NARA –- a decision the lawyer reportedly did not object to.
“My understanding is it was a mutual decision for Alex to no longer deal with Archives,” a source told CNN.
Cannon reportedly warned Trump sometime in the fall of 2021 that not giving back the documents he’d taken could lead to a criminal referral.
Cannon’s misgivings ended up being correct: Trump’s legal team handed over 38 classified documents to the Justice Department in June in response to a subpoena; the FBI discovered more than two dozen boxes of government records when it executed a raid on Mar-a-Lago in August; and there’s a very real chance Trump could face a criminal referral now that the DOJ is investigating the matter.
While Cannon was reportedly uncomfortable telling the government that his client had returned the documents, Trump’s other lawyers apparently had no similar qualms. One of them signed an affidavit in June claiming all the materials had been turned over.
Cannon was also reportedly worried that the 15 boxes NARA had retrieved from Mar-a-Lago in January contained classified material.
The lawyer was right about that too: Officials reported that they found 184 classified documents in those boxes.
And Cannon had another concern, according to the Times. He was reportedly worried about Trump potentially withholding documents related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
However, there haven’t been indications that any of the material Trump took was tied to Jan. 6 or the insurrection.