The Justice Department said that documents were “likely concealed and removed” from a Mar-a-Lago storage room in an alleged effort to obstruct an investigation into former President Donald Trump’s cache of classified material at his property.
Federal prosecutors made the claim in a court filing late on Tuesday, as they oppose efforts to appoint a special master to review materials retrieved during a search of Trump’s estate on Aug. 8.
In the filing, the Justice Department said that they “developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”
The DOJ’s filing outlines efforts over 18 months to obtain presidential records from Trump, taken to Mar-a-Lago when he left office. Under the Presidential Records Act, those records are the property of the U.S. government and held by the National Archives.
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After Trump’s team initially turned over 15 boxes of materials to the archives, the agency alerted the FBI when it was discovered that documents with classified markings with mixed in with other presidential materials. By May, Trump’s team was served with a grand jury subpoena to turn over any additional material.
According to the Justice Department’s latest filing, what was turned over on June 3 was an envelope that contained 38 documents bearing classification markings, including five marked as confidential, 16 documents marked as secret, and 17 documents marked as top secret.
“When producing the documents, neither counsel nor the custodian asserted that the former President had declassified the documents or asserted any claim of executive privilege,” the Justice Department said in its filing. “Instead, counsel handled them in a manner that suggested counsel believed that the documents were classified: the production included a single Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in tape, containing the documents.”
The FBI then “uncovered multiple sources of evidence” that still more documents remained at Mar-a-Lago, even though an unidentified Trump representative had signed a sworn statement that all of the records had been turned over. The filing stated that “the government developed evidence that a search limited to the Storage Room would not have uncovered all the classified documents at” Mar-a-Lago.
The search of Mar-a-Lago earlier this month retrieved 11 sets of classified documents, along with other presidential materials. The DOJ included in its filing a photo of some of documents, retrieved from Trump’s office, as well as other items, including a framed Time cover.
The Justice Department challenged Trump’s claims that some of the records are covered by executive privilege. It said that the government “is also reviewing those highly sensitive records to determine whether their handling created risks to national security.”
Trump’s team is expected to respond to the DOJ filing later on Wednesday.
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