Material recovered from Trump by the archives contains classified information
WASHINGTON — The National Archives confirmed Friday that it found classified information among documents President Donald J. Trump took to his home in Florida when he left office last year and that they viewed the Department of Justice on this.
The agency “has identified items marked as classified national security information in the boxes,” according to a letter posted on the National Archives and Record Administration website.
Last month, the archives recovered 15 boxes that Mr. Trump had taken with him to his Mar-a-Lago home from the White House residence at the end of his term. The boxes contained material subject to the Presidential Archives Act, which requires that all documents and records relating to official business be turned over to the archives.
Items in the boxes included documents, souvenirs, gifts and letters. The archives did not describe the classified material they found, except to say it was “classified national security information”.
Because the National Archives “has identified classified information in the boxes,” the agency “has been in communication with the Department of Justice,” says the letter, written by David S. Ferriero, the National Archivist, and sent to Representative Carolyn B. Maloney. , Democrat of New York and chair of the House Oversight Committee, which examined how Mr. Trump handled presidential records.
Mr. Trump made the attack on Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of national security documents a centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign. The latest revelations about Mr. Trump’s own laxity with classified information and his haphazard adherence federal record-keeping laws have drawn cries of hypocrisy from Democrats.
Asked how Republicans would reconcile Mr. Trump’s criticism of Mrs. Clinton with his own record, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, which at one point endorsed a resolution condemning Mrs. Clinton for using a private mail server while she was Secretary of State, Did not respond.
The New York Times reported last week that among the documents that were returned to the National Archives, some were considered classified by archivists and that the agency had consulted with the Department of Justice about the discovery.
It’s unclear what action, if any, the Justice Department is taking to address the matter.
Mr. Ferriero’s letter came the same day a federal judge denied Mr. Trump’s request to dismiss three civil lawsuits seeking to hold him accountable for his role in the attack on the Capitol last year. And it came a day after a New York judge ruled the former president must answer questions from state investigators examining his company, the Trump Organization, for evidence of fraud.
Over the past two weeks, a series of disclosures have raised new questions about the Trump administration’s failure to follow federal record-keeping laws and its handling of classified information when Mr. Trump left office.
Pointing to a new element of the matter, the National Archives said in its letter on Friday that the Trump White House had failed to turn over records containing “certain social media records.”
Trump’s White House, according to the records, took “no action to capture content removed from any Trump administration social media accounts other than @realDonaldTrump or @POTUS.” The accounts in question included those of aides such as Andrew Giuliani, Chad Gilmartin, Ivanka Trump, Kayleigh McEnany, Kellyanne Conway, Mark Meadows and Peter Navarro which records show contained presidential records.
The archives were also unable to locate any of the Snapchat messages sent by the Trump White House.
Mr. Ferriero also wrote that “certain White House personnel were conducting official business using unofficial email accounts that were not copied or forwarded to their official email accounts.” The archives said they were in the process of obtaining some of these documents.
Among those staffers was Mr. Meadows, Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff, who recently turned over hundreds of pages of documents to the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, including some came from his personal cell phone. The committee said it had questions about why Mr Meadows used a personal mobile phone, a Signal account and two personal Gmail accounts to conduct official business, and whether he had correctly handed over all relevant records of these accounts in the National Archives.
Mr. Ferriero made it clear in his letter that the archives had been concerned for several years about Mr. Trump’s failure to comply with the record-keeping law.
In June 2018, the archives “learned from a Politico article that verbatim presidential documents were being torn up by former President Trump and White House staff were attempting to glue them back together,” the letter said.
The letter added, referring to the National Archives and Records Administration: “The White House Counsel’s office has indicated that it will address the matter. After the end of the Trump administration, NARA learned that additional paper documents that had been torn up by former President Trump had been included in the documents transferred to us. Although White House staff under the Trump administration recovered and saved some of the torn documents, a number of other torn documents that were transferred have not been pieced together by the White House.
Confirmation by the archives that they had found classified information in the material could offer the Justice Department choices on how to proceed. It could open a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump and his aides mishandled classified information, as they did in the case of Mrs. Clinton.
Such an investigation would be very complex, in part because, as president, Mr. Trump had the ability to easily declassify any information he wanted. He could argue that he declassified the documents he took with him before he left the White House.
Whether or not the bureau opens a criminal investigation, it often conducts a review to determine if any of the mishandled information exposed sources and methods and could have harmed national security.
The ministry could also choose to treat the matter as more routine. Senior US officials often mistakenly handle classified information, such as by reporting it from work or accidentally using it or discussing it in unsecured channels. In many of these cases, the FBI treats the matter as “a spill” that needs to be cleaned up.
In these cases, FBI agents take a series of steps to ensure that any national security secrets that may have been exposed are collected so they can be stored in secure channels, and they clean or destroy the devices. electronics where the information may have been hosted. or discussed.
Mr. Trump’s handling of government documents has come under increasing scrutiny. A book slated for release in October by a Times reporter revealed how staffers at the White House Residence periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging toilets, leading them to believe that Mr. Trump had tried to rinse them.
The former president’s use of cellphones to conduct official business could also have resulted in large gaps in the official White House logs of his calls on Jan. 6, 2021, hampering the House Select Committee’s investigation into the Capitol Riot. Failure by Mr. Trump to keep cellphone records and turn them over to the National Archives could also be a violation of the law.
Ms. Maloney, the New York Democrat, had warned as early as December 2020 that she believed the Trump administration was not following the Presidential Records Act. She wrote a letter to Mr. Ferriero, the National Archivist, expressing what she called “serious concerns” that the outgoing administration “may not properly preserve records and may dispose of them.”
Weeks after the Capitol riot, Ms. Maloney requested voluminous documents from the archives, including documents and communications before, during and after the Jan. 6 attack regarding the counting of electoral votes and the planned protests and violence.
Then, last week, Ms Maloney announced she was opening an investigation, after the Washington Post reported that Mr Trump had destroyed documents and moved boxes to his property in Florida instead of returning them to the archives.
Ms Maloney said on Friday that the letter from the archives “confirms that there are potentially significantly more Trump administration documents missing, including direct messages sent by senior officials across multiple social media platforms.”
She added, “These new revelations reinforce my concern about former President Trump’s blatant disregard for federal archival laws and the potential impact on our historical records.”
Reid J. Epstein contributed report.