Documents discovered at former US President Donald Trump’s property in Florida were likely hidden as part of an effort to obstruct an FBI investigation, Justice Department officials say, the BBC reports.
In a court filing, the department said “efforts were likely made to obstruct” the investigation into Trump’s use of classified material.
The file was a response to Trump’s request that an independent party oversee part of the ongoing case, writes news.ro.
Trump denies the accusations brought against him.
After their term ends, the presidents of the United States must turn over all their documents and emails to the National Archives. The FBI is investigating whether Trump mishandled the records by moving them from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago residence after he ends his term in January 2021.
In the filing released Tuesday, Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt provided the clearest picture yet of the department’s efforts to obtain documents from the former president.
As a result, a National Archives team visited Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in January, an FBI team visited in June, and on August 8, the FBI conducted a search of the home.
In January, the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes of White House records from Mar-a-Lago, where they discovered that the highly classified records were “unfolded” and “mixed with other records” — some pages had been torn.
After learning that these contained “highly classified reports,” the Justice Department and the FBI began investigations and found evidence that “dozens of additional boxes” likely containing classified information still remained on the former US leader’s property.
On June 3, three FBI agents and a Justice Department attorney arrived at Mar-a-Lago to gather material. According to Trump’s lawyers, he told them: “Whatever you need, tell us.”
But agents were “explicitly prohibited” by his representatives from inspecting the interior of a shed on Trump’s property, according to the latest filing.
Bratt also said this provided “no opportunity for the government to confirm” that no classified documents remained at the property.
Evidence was also found that the records were “probably hidden and removed” from the warehouse and that efforts were “probably” made to obstruct the investigation, officials said.
Following the June visit, FBI teams searched the property again in August and found more than a hundred classified documents, twice as many classified documents found “within hours” compared to the “thorough search” that Trump’s team claimed to have performed it previously.
Bratt pointed out that this “calls into question the extent of cooperation in this matter”.
At the time, Trump dismissed accusations that he had mismanaged official records as “fake news”.
He also filed a lawsuit for a detailed list of items seized from his home and is asking the government to return any items not covered by the search warrant.
Trump’s lawyers have asked that a “neutral” third-party lawyer – known as a special master – be brought in to determine whether the seized files are covered by executive privilege, which allows presidents to keep certain communications secret.
The most recent court filing states that any presidential documents seized in the search warrant “belong to the United States, not the former president.”
Tags: FBI, donald trump,
Publication date: 31-08-2022 18:41