At least one of former President Trump’s lawyers asserted in a written statement in June that all classified material stored at his Mar-a-Lago residence had been returned to the government, four people with knowledge of the document told the New York Times. The Times’ report comes after FBI agents recovered more classified materials from the resort after executing a search warrant last week.
The written declaration by the Trump lawyer was reportedly issued following a visit to Mar-a-Lago on June 3 by Jay I. Bratt, the top counterintelligence official in the DOJ’s national security division.
Last January, the former president returned 15 boxes of material, following the National Archives’ discovery that he had taken government material with him after departing the White House. Under the Presidential Records Act, the former president was required to send material to the archives.
When Trump returned 15 boxes of material in January, archivists found many pages of documents with classified markings. They referred the matter to the DOJ, which launched a probe and convened a grand jury. The DOJ then subpoenaed Trump in the spring, seeking additional documents that potentially remained in his possession.
Bratt’s visit to Mar-a-Lago alongside other officials in June was an effort to resolve the issue. According to the Times, Bratt and other officials met with Trump briefly during their visit. Two of Trump’s lawyers, M. Evan Corcoran and Christina Bobb, also spoke with Bratt and some of the investigators he was with, people briefed on the meeting told the Times.
Corcoran and Bobb reportedly directed Bratt and his team to boxes in a storage area at the resort that held material Trump had taken from the White House. Bratt and his team reportedly left Mar-a-Lago with additional material marked classified, and obtained a written declaration around that time from a Trump lawyer attesting that all classified material in the boxes were turned over, two people briefed on the visit told the Times.
Shortly after his visit, Bratt reportedly sent an email to Corcoran telling him to obtain a more secure padlock for the storage area. The former president’s team reportedly complied.
The Times noted that the search also included Trump’s office and residence. The search warrant and inventory unsealed on Friday, which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, did not specify where the classified documents at Mar-a-Lago were found.
Additionally, the DOJ subpoenaed surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago recorded over a 60-day period, including footage records outside the storage room. The footage reportedly showed that following one instance of DOJ officials’ contact with Trump’s team, boxes were moved in and out of the room, a person briefed on the matter told the Times.
The Times reported that investigators had been in contact with about half a dozen of Trump’s current aides in recent months regarding information about the handling of documents stored at Mar-a-Lago. A person familiar with the inquiry told the Times that at least one witness provided investigators with information hat prompted them to want to press Trump more for material.
The Times’ report comes a week after FBI agents executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, with agents reportedly recovering 11 sets of classified documents, including one set of documents marked as “Various classified/TS/SCI documents” — which are among the most sensitive classified materials the U.S. government possesses.
On Friday, Trump claimed that he declassified all material in his possession during his presidency — but did not provide documentation to back up his claim.
Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that he personally authorized the move to seek the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago. Shortly before Garland’s announcement, a person close to Trump reportedly reached out to a DOJ official to pass along a message from Trump to Garland. The former president reportedly wanted to communicate to Garland that he had been checking in with people around the country, whom he claimed have been “enraged” by the search, according to the Times.
A person familiar with the exchange told the Times that Trump wanted to convey the message: “The country is on fire. What can I do to reduce the heat?”
A judge unsealed the warrant and the inventory of items that the FBI seized the next day.