Turns out that Trump did in fact have more classified documents. But if you read an earlier version of the story, you might have missed it.
On Wednesday morning, the Washington Post reported that a team of the former president’s lawyers searched two of his properties for classified materials over the past few weeks at the behest of a federal judge.
A quick refresher: Back in January, the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes of presidential records, including classified material, from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida. Months later in August, as we know, the FBI raided the resort and seized 11 sets of classified records that were still being hoarded there. It was revealed in October that officials in the Justice Department were concerned that there were more secret government documents scattered throughout Trump’s properties. The Wall Street Journal revealed in a new report Wednesday that investigators also were concerned at the time that Trump was taking the documents on flights from Mar-a-Lago to his other properties.
At the time, Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of Federal District Court in D.C. told Trump’s lawyers to conduct a thorough search for more documents.
So, per the Post, Trump’s team hired an outside firm to search several of the former president’s properties, including a golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey and Trump Tower in Manhattan. The lawyers reportedly offered to let the FBI watch the search, but the agents declined.
Based on anonymous sourcing, the Post reported Wednesday morning that the lawyers told the Justice Department that they hadn’t found any new classified documents on Trump’s properties.
But that afternoon CNN reported that the firm searched two more properties that weren’t noted in the Post’s initial piece, bringing the total properties searched to four.
The Post published a follow-up piece soon afterwards, in which they revealed that the firm had actually found “at least two items marked classified” in a storage unit in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“Emails released by the General Services Administration, which assists former presidents during their transition to private life, show that the government agency helped rent the storage unit in a private facility in West Palm Beach on July 21, 2021,” in the Post’s words. The unit was reportedly used to store miscellaneous items — “suits and swords and wrestling belts and all sorts of things,” a source told the Post — and that none of the items placed in storage were cataloged. The documents were promptly turned over to the FBI. The Wall Street Journal also later confirmed that the two documents were acquired and handed over.
So, what happened here? One theory is that the initial Post piece relied heavily on Trump-linked sources. The New York Times later took an opportunity to point out that discrepancy:
“People close to Mr. Trump had said earlier on Wednesday that no classified material had been found during the searches, a claim that was later proved incorrect,” their write-up notes.