The Mar-a-Lago club’s search for former President Donald Trump for confidential and other government documents may have come as a surprise to the public. But new legal documents show that the investigation that triggered the unprecedented action lasted months. The documents clarify that Trump had ample opportunity to return the material requested by the government – and then sued – and reveal the huge amount of highly sensitive documents he kept in the club.
Here is a timeline of notable developments so far:
JAN. 20, 2021:
Then President Donald Trump left the White House for Florida before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. According to the General Administration of Services, Trump’s transition team members were responsible for packing the items into boxes, placing the boxes on pallets, and shrinking those pallets so they could be transported.
Prior to shipping, GSA said it “requires the outbound transition team to certify in writing that the items shipped were needed to close the former President’s Office and would be used as the Office moved to its new location in Florida”.
GSA did not review the contents of the boxes and “was unaware of the contents prior to shipment,” according to an agency spokesperson. GSA was not even responsible for the former president’s personal belongings, which had been transported by a private moving company.
After the National Archives and Records Administration realized Trump’s presidency documents were missing from the material he received as he left office, the agency requested the documents from Trump around May 6, 2021.
NARA “kept making requests” for documents that she believed were missing for several months. In late December 2021, a Trump representative informed the agency that 12 more boxes of documents that should have been delivered had been found in the club and residence of former president Mar-a-Lago and were ready to be recovered. .
JAN. 18, 2022:
NARA received 15 boxes of presidential documents that had been stored in Mar-a-Lago – 14 of which, it turned out, contained confidential documents. The documents were found mixed with an assortment of other material, including newspapers, magazines, photos and personal correspondence.
In total, the boxes contained 184 documents with classified marks, of which 67 marked confidential, 92 secret and 25 top secret. Officers who inspected the boxes also found special markings suggesting they included information from highly sensitive human sources or the collection of electronic “signals” authorized by a court under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
FEB. 9, 2022:
The special agent in charge of the NARA inspector general’s office sent a referral to the Justice Department via email after a preliminary examination of the boxes revealed numerous confidential documents.
“The most significant concern,” they wrote, according to a heavily drafted affidavit released last week, “was that highly classified records were opened, mixed with other records, and otherwise misidentified (sic).”
After an initial review of the NARA referral, the FBI has opened a criminal investigation into the matter.
FEB. 10, 2022:
Trump’s Save America PAC issued a statement insisting that the return of documents was “routine” and “not a big deal”.
Trump insisted that “the documents were delivered easily and conflict-free and on a very friendly basis” and added, “It has been a great honor to work with NARA to help formally preserve Trump’s legacy.”
FEB. 18, 2022:
NARA revealed in a letter to a Congressional oversight committee that classified information was found in the 15 boxes recovered and confirmed the referral to the Justice Department.
Trump’s PAC Save America released another statement insisting: “The National Archives have ‘found’ nothing”, but “received, upon request, presidential documents in an ordinary and routine process to ensure preservation. of my inheritance and in accordance with the President’s Law on Records ”.
12 APRIL 2022:
NARA has informed Trump of his intention to provide the documents to the FBI, at the request of the Justice Department. A Trump representative has asked for an extension until April 29.
29 APRIL 2022:
The Justice Department sent a letter to Trump’s lawyers asking for immediate access to the material, “citing” important national security interests. “
“Access to materials is not only necessary for the purposes of our ongoing criminal investigation, but the executive branch must also conduct an assessment of the potential harm arising from the apparent manner in which these materials have been stored and transported and take all corrective measures. necessary, “the department wrote.
Trump’s lawyers have called for a further extension.
10 MAY 2022:
NARA has informed Trump’s lawyers that he will provide the FBI with access to the documents as soon as May 12.
11 MAY 2022:
The Department of Justice has issued a subpoena for additional documents.
3 JUNE 2022:
Three FBI agents and a Justice Department attorney went to Mar-a-Lago to collect additional material offered by a Trump attorney in response to the subpoena. He was given “a single Redweld envelope, wrapped in double tape, containing the documents,” according to an August 30 filing.
That envelope, it was later discovered, contained 38 documents with classification marks, including five documents marked confidential, 16 marked secret, and 17 marked top secret.
During the visit, the filing said, “The former president’s attorney provided no explanation as to why boxes of government documents, including 38 documents with classification marks, remained at the site nearly five months after the Fifteen were produced. boxes and almost one and a half years from the end of the Administration “.
Trump’s lawyers also told investigators that all documents from the White House were kept in one place: a warehouse in Mar-a-Lago. Investigators were allowed to visit the room, but were “explicitly forbidden” to open or look inside any of the boxes, they reported, “giving no chance for the government to confirm that no documents with classification marks were left. “.
A signed certification letter was also delivered to the Department of Justice stating that a “diligent search” had been completed and no documents remained.
8 JUNE 2022:
The Justice Department sent a letter to Trump’s attorney asking that the closet be secured and that “all the boxes that have been moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) are kept in that room in their current condition until further notice.
AUGUST 5, 2022:
The Justice Department applied for a search and seizure warrant for Mar-a-Lago, citing “probable causes” that additional presidential documents and documents containing confidential information remained in various parts of the club.
“There is also a probable reason to believe that evidence of the obstruction” would be found, reads a heavily edited copy of the affidavit that exposes the FBI’s rationale for the search.
The Justice Department also revealed in the Aug. 30 filing that it found evidence “that government documents were likely hidden and removed from the warehouse and that efforts were likely made to obstruct government investigations.”
US magistrate judge Bruce Reinhart in South Florida approved the application on the same day.
AUGUST 8, 2022:
The FBI carried out the search in Mar-a-Lago, seizing 36 items of evidence, including boxes and containers containing more than 100 confidential documents, a pardon order, Trump’s ally, Roger Stone, and information on the “President. of France”.
Agents found confidential documents in both the warehouse and the former president’s office, including three confidential documents found not in the boxes, but on the office desks.
They included such sensitive elements that “In some cases, even the FBI counterintelligence staff and DOJ attorneys conducting the review required additional permissions before they were allowed to review certain documents.”
“That the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification marks than the ‘diligent search’ that the former president’s adviser and other representatives have had weeks to carry out seriously questions the claims made. in the June 3 certification and questions the extent of cooperation in this matter, “wrote the Justice Department.
Trump and his allies, meanwhile, view research as a weapon of the criminal justice system with the aim of damaging it politically as it prepares for another potential race to the White House.
AUGUST 12, 2022:
Judge Reinhart opened the warrant authorizing the FBI to search Mar-a-Lago, which specified that federal agents were investigating potential violations of three federal laws, including the Espionage Act.
AUGUST 26, 2022:
A highly edited version of the affidavit has been released setting out the FBI’s reasons for finding Mar-a-Lago.
AUGUST 30, 2022:
The Justice Department responded to Trump’s request for a special master in a filing that included new details about the investigation, including a claim that classified documents were “likely hidden and removed” from a warehouse in Mar-a-Lago. as part of an effort to obstruct the probe.
It included a photograph of some of the material found at the club, including paper clips bound with staples, some marked “TOP SECRET // SCI” with bright yellow edges and one marked “SECRET // SCI” with a rust-colored border – lying on a carpet in Mar-a-Lago.
“Terrible the way in which the FBI, during the Mar-a-Lago Raid, threw the documents at random on the ground (perhaps pretending that I did!), And then started photographing them to show them at public, “Trump replied. “I thought they wanted them to keep the secret?”
Colvin reported from New York.
More information on the Donald Trump investigation: https://apnews.com/hub/donald-trump