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National Archives: Trump Took Classified Documents From White House to Mar-A-Lago

National Archives: Trump Took Classified Documents From White House to Mar-A-Lago

Classified information was found in the 15 boxes of White House records that were stored at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, the National Archives and Records Administration said Friday in a letter that confirmed the matter has been sent to the Justice Department. Federal law bars the removal of classified documents to unauthorized locations, though it is possible that Trump could try to argue that he was the ultimate declassification authority during his term. The law mandates that presidential records are the property of the U.S. government, rather than belonging to the president themself. A statute, punishable by up to three years in prison, makes it a crime to conceal or intentionally destroy government records.

The letter follows numerous reports around Trump’s handling of sensitive and even classified information during his time in office and after he left the White House. The revelation could also interest federal investigators responsible for policing the handling of government secrets, though the Justice Department and FBI have not yet indicated if they will pursue.

PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 13: Former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort where he resides after leaving the White House on February 13, 2021 in Palm Beach, Florida. The Senate on Saturday acquitted Donald Trump of inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The letter from the National Archives was in response to a request from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which is investigating. It also details how certain social media records were not captured and preserved by the Trump administration, and also says that they learned that White House staff frequently conducted official business using unofficial messaging accounts and personal phones.

 

Trump recently denied reports about his administration’s tenuous relationship with the National Archives and his lawyers said that “they are continuing to search for additional presidential records that belong to the National Archives.”

No matter the legal risk, it exposes him to charges of hypocrisy given his relentless attacks during the 2016 presidential campaign on Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server as secretary of state. The FBI investigated but ultimately did not recommend charges. But this is new territory, as no former president has ever been accused of stealing classified information from the White House.

Lawmakers are also seeking information about the contents of the boxes recovered from Mar-a-Lago, but the National Archives cited the records act as holding them back from divulging. Chairwoman of the Oversight Committee Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said in a statement Friday that “these new revelations deepen my concern about former President Trump’s flagrant disregard for federal records law and the potential impact on our historical record.” She added, “I am committed to uncovering the full depth of the Presidential Records Act violations by former President Trump and his top advisors and using those findings to advance critical reforms and prevent future abuses.”

House investigators will be looking to see if Trump’s actions, both during his presidency and after, violated the Presidential Records Act, which was enacted in 1978 after former President Richard Nixon wanted to destroy documents related to the Watergate scandal.

 

[This is a developing story, please check back for updates]

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