FBI investigating ‘secret’ documents at Mar-a-Lago – suggesting a ‘criminal investigation’ is already underway


The FBI is investigating how classified White House documents ended up in former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, according to the Washington Post and New York Times.

The Justice Department has “begun taking steps” to investigate Trump’s removal of presidential records, including classified documents labeled “top secret,” according to the Post. The FBI, which is leading the effort, is in the “preliminary stages” of the investigation, according to the Times.

The National Archives said in February it contacted the Justice Department after discovering ‘classified national security information’ in 15 boxes containing documents, memorabilia and gifts from the White House that had been improperly brought. at Mar-a-Lago. The DOJ ordered the National Archives not to share details of the documents with the House Oversight Committee, which is also investigating the case, suggesting that a “criminal investigation may be underway”, according to the Times.

‘It’s a big deal,’ says government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said on Twitter. The group sent a letter to the DOJ in February alleging that Trump “likely violated criminal law” with his handling of government records, including reports that he tore up official documents that had to be glued back together.

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It’s unclear whether the Justice Department has begun examining the material in the boxes or whether investigators have interviewed anyone involved in their removal. But he is keeping the documents secret, angering House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., who accused the department of “interfering” with her panel’s investigation of the documents.

In a letter To Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday, Maloney called on the DOJ to allow the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to cooperate fully with the House investigation into Trump’s likely violations of the Presidential Records Act.

“By preventing NARA from producing the documents requested by the Committee, the Department is obstructing the Committee’s investigation,” Maloney wrote. “The Committee does not wish to interfere in any way with any potential or ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice. However, the Committee has not received any explanation as to why the Department is preventing NARA from providing information to the Committee. “

Trump’s team has previously denied mishandling government records.

“It is clear that a normal, routine process is being weaponized by anonymous, politically motivated government sources to peddle fake news,” Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said in February.

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But the probe could put Trump back under FBI scrutiny after the Justice Department’s years-long probe into the former president’s 2016 campaign and its links to Russian election interference efforts. The FBI also investigated Trump for obstruction of justice after he fired former FBI director James Comey.

The FBI, in such cases, “would generally consider a range of scenarios, including whether the classified material was mishandled or inadvertently disclosed, and it could consider whether a foreign adversary might have gained access to it,” according to the Times. .

The report also noted that the decision to open such a sensitive investigation would have required the approval of senior FBI officials, including the National Security Division.

It’s unclear what role, if any, Trump played in getting the White House documents to Mar-a-Lago and it’s unlikely that Trump personally is the target of the investigation at this time, according to the Times. , who noted that the FBI also did not target anyone individually in its investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server. But the FBI would be interested in knowing who had access to the documents, who packed the boxes and who transported them to Florida. Assessing Trump’s role in the case could be complicated, the report adds, because during his tenure as president he had the power to declassify any information he wanted. Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly attacked Clinton for mishandling sensitive information.

The House Oversight investigation is also investigating reports that “White House employees or contractors found paper in White House restrooms, including the White House Residence,” during the administration. Trump, the committee said. Earlier reports suggested that Trump routinely tore up White House files, leading the administration to assemble a team to glue the papers back together. A recent book by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman also reported that staffers found wads of printed paper clogging a toilet in a White House residence, raising suspicions that Trump had tried to rinse them.

Trump also faces federal scrutiny of his role in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The House committee investigating this event is considering requesting an interview with Trump, according to BNC News. And the Justice Department has expanded its criminal investigation in recent months with subpoenas targeting Trump World “VIPs” and exploring whether any administration officials or members of Congress were involved in planning the rally that preceded the riot or “any attempt to obstruct, influence, hinder or delay” the certification of election results.

Garland has faced mounting frustrations from Democrats over the Justice Department’s handling of Trump-related issues. The Times last week reported that President Biden was frustrated by Garland’s reluctance to “take decisive action regarding the events of January 6” and privately told those around him that he believed Trump was a “threat to democracy and should be prosecuted “.

Tensions boiled over at a recent committee hearing on Jan. 6, where members took turns asking Garland to intervene.

“Attorney General Garland,” said Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., “do your job so we can do ours.”

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