The federal government has recovered more than 300 documents with classified markings that former President Donald Trump improperly took from the White House, starting with about 150 classified documents retrieved by the National Archives in January, The New York Times reports, citing multiple people briefed on the matter. The large number of highly sensitive documents in the tranche returned to the National Archives helped convince the Justice Department to open the criminal investigation that led to the FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club on Aug. 8, the Times reports.
The first 150 classified documents included in the 15 boxes Trump's team returned to the government in January, after a year of cajoling by the National Archives, "included documents from the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the FBI spanning a variety of topics of national security interest," the Times reports. "Trump went through the boxes himself in late 2021, according to multiple people briefed on his efforts, before turning them over."
MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell found that detail especially perilous for Trump.
The FBI took a second batch of a few dozen classified documents during a visit to Mar-a-Lago on June 3, but subsequent interviews with people in Trump's circle led the Justice Department to believe Trump was still holding on to highly sensitive documents he had no authority to possess, much less at his lightly secured private club. In the FBI's unannounced search earlier this month, the FBI took another 26 boxes, including 11 sets of material marked as classified, some with the highest level of classification.
Some of Trump's allies have claimed, without providing evidence, that Trump declassified the documents before packing them off to Florida, but "the potential crimes cited by the Justice Department in seeking the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago would not hinge on the classification status of the documents," the Times clarifies.
"The Justice Department investigation is continuing, suggesting that officials are not certain whether they have recovered all the presidential records" Trump took from the White House, the Times reports. As part of the ongoing investigation, federal investigators have requested a second set of Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage, this batch from the weeks leading up to the Aug. 8 search. You can read more at The New York Times.