FBI to investigate how classified documents got to Trump's home

WASHINGTON — Federal authorities are in the preliminary stages of investigating their handling of classified documents found at former P...


WASHINGTON — Federal authorities are in the preliminary stages of investigating their handling of classified documents found at former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida home after he left office, people familiar with the matter said Thursday.

The effort, led by the FBI, stems from the discovery of classified information in 15 boxes containing documents, souvenirs, gifts and letters that had been capture of the white house at the end of Mr. Trump’s term in apparent violation of requirements to turn over all presidential records to the National Archives.

The development was reported earlier by The Washington Post.

The National Archives said in February that he had consulted with the Justice Department about the classified documents, which he had retrieved the previous month from Mr. Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. The agency described the documents in question as “classified national security information”.

The Justice Department has ordered the National Archives not to share with the House Oversight Committee, which is conducting its own investigation, details of material taken from the White House by Mr. Trump, the committee revealed Thursday, in a clue that a criminal investigation might be underway.

In such cases, the FBI would typically examine a range of scenarios, including whether the classified material was mishandled or inadvertently disclosed, and it could examine whether a foreign adversary might have gained access to it.

The investigation could once again put Mr. Trump at odds with the FBI.

In July 2016, the FBI launched a highly sensitive investigation into whether one of Mr Trump’s associates had conspired with the Russians during the presidential campaign. The FBI and prosecutors will later investigate Mr. Trump for obstruction after he fired then-FBI director James B. Comey in May 2017.

A decision to open such a sensitive investigation would have required the approval of senior FBI officials at headquarters. Typically, opening such a high-profile case would include discussions with senior Justice Department officials, including the National Security Division.

Before proceeding with an investigation, the FBI would almost certainly want an official determination from any agency involved that the information was properly classified.

What role Mr. Trump played in taking the White House material, if any, is not publicly known. He himself is unlikely to be the target of the investigation at this time. In Hillary Clinton’s investigation of emailing classified information using a private server, the FBI did not target anyone individually.

As part of any investigation, the FBI would want to know why the classified material was in Mr. Trump’s possession and who had access to it. Next, officers would like to determine who packed the boxes and transported them to Florida and the circumstances surrounding this episode.

Assessing Mr. Trump’s role could be complex, in part because, as president, Mr. Trump had the ability to easily declassify any information he wanted.

Mr. Trump made the attack on Mrs. Clinton’s mishandling of national security documents a centerpiece of his 2016 campaign. The latest revelations about Mr. Trump’s own laxity with classified information and his haphazard adherence to Federal record-keeping laws have prompted Democrats to accuse him of rank hypocrisy.

The House Oversight Committee is investigating Mr. Trump’s possible violations of the Presidential Records Act and other federal laws. The panel sought information about the contents of the boxes and reviewed reports that Mr. Trump “ripped up, destroyed, mutilated or attempted to tear up, destroyed or mutilated” documents while in office.

The committee is also investigating reports that “White House employees or contractors found paper in White House restrooms, including the White House residence.”

The Justice Department’s refusal to cooperate fully with House investigators prompted an angry letter Thursday from Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, a New York Democrat and chair of the Oversight Committee, who accused Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s agency of “obstructing” the panel’s work.

The National Archives informed the committee on March 28 that it was withholding information about the contents of boxes found at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate and any information about examinations conducted by other federal agencies, said Mrs. Maloney in her letter. .

“Based on our consultation with the Department of Justice, we are unable to provide comment,” the records told the committee.

“By preventing NARA from producing the documents requested by the committee, the department is obstructing the committee’s investigation,” Ms. Maloney wrote to Mr. Garland on Thursday, referring to the National Archives and Records Administration. “The committee does not wish to interfere in any way with any potential or ongoing Justice Department investigation. However, the committee received no explanation as to why the department is preventing NARA from providing the committee with information relating to compliance “with the Presidential Records Act,” “including unclassified information describing the contents of 15 boxes of Mar-a-Lac.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.

Mr. Trump’s penchant for tearing up presidential records was revealed in a Politico article from 2018but in recent weeks a series of revelations have raised new questions about the Trump administration’s failure to follow federal record keeping laws and its treatment of confidential information as Mr. Trump left office.

A book slated for release in October by a New York Times reporter revealed how staffers at the White House Residence periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging toilets, leading them to believe Mr. Trump had tried to rinse them.

In a recent statement, Mr Trump said the boxed material was turned over to the archives as part of an “ordinary and routine process” and suggested that Democrats’ efforts to raise questions about his handling of the documents were a scam.

“Fake news makes it look like I, as President of the United States, was working in a file room,” he said.

The clash with Mr Garland is the latest example from Congressional Democrats growing frustration with the Department of Justice. Last week, members of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol urged the attorney general to move more quickly to charge Mr. Trump’s last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, with contempt of office. Congress.

One panel member, Representative Elaine Luria, Democrat of Virginia, told him, “Do your job so we can do ours.

Thrush Glenn contributed report.

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Newsrust - US Top News: FBI to investigate how classified documents got to Trump's home
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