Former U.S. President Donald Trump throws hats as he attends a rally in Warren, Michigan, October 1, 2022.
Dieu-nalio Chery | Reutersm
The Justice Department suspects ex-President Donald Trump may still have classified documents he removed from the White House when he left office in January 2021, people familiar with the matter told NBC News.
The Justice Department’s head of counterintelligence, Jay Bratt, recently told Trump’s attorneys that the department believes he failed to turn over all government documents he took with him when he left office, classified or not, NBC reported.
The news, first reported by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, comes two months after FBI agents, authorized by a search warrant, searched Trump’s Florida residence and seized thousands of government documents. More than 100 of the records were marked as classified.
It also comes days after Acting United States Archivist Debra Steidel Wall said in a letter to the House Oversight and Reform Committee that the National Archives and Records Administration has still not recovered any of Trump’s personnel files in the White House, which are based on unofficial electronic accounts include them used during his presidency.
NARA found more than 150 documents marked as classified in file boxes that Trump had given the agency from Mar-a-Lago in January.
The DOJ declined comment.
Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said in a statement to NBC News: “The armed Justice Department and the politicized FBI are spending millions and millions in American taxes [dollars] to continue one witch hunt after another.”
Budowich said that “all recent presidents have shifted millions of pages of documents” and argued that “President Trump is being unfairly, illegally and unconstitutionally attacked because he will not stop fighting to restore people’s power.”
The Aug. 8 raid at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach was part of an ongoing criminal investigation into Trump over the removal of government documents upon his departure from office and possible obstruction of justice because those documents were not returned, as reported it the federal authorities demanded their return.
By law, such records are owned by the US government.
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The DOJ said the raid found empty file folders marked as classified. Officials have also complained that a judge’s order temporarily barring the DOJ from reviewing the confiscated classified documents “appears to bar the FBI and DOJ from a review” that could identify other records that are “still missing.”
Although the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago, where Trump resides outside of the summer months, agents did not search his residence at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, nor his apartment in Trump Tower in New York City.
The Daily Mail last month published video of Trump taking in May 2021 boarding a jet near Mar-a-Lago as file boxes were being loaded onto the plane. Trump was traveling to Bedminster at the time.
Trump’s attorneys are divided over how to respond to the DOJ’s suspicions that the former president still has classified material, the Times report said. A group of lawyers led by Chris Kise had suggested that Trump hire a forensic accounting firm to search for the suspicious records. But other lawyers advised Trump against going down that route, according to the report.
The latest reports of classified information that may still be missing complicate an already confused legal situation.
Judges in four federal courts, including the Supreme Court, are dealing with disputes between Trump’s attorneys and the DOJ over the parameters and timing of the use of the records in the criminal investigation.