According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the National Archives and Records Administration found what it considered to be secret information in documents that Donald Trump took with him from the White House as he left office.
Archives Found Possible Classified Material in Boxes Returned by Trump
According to the source, the National Archives reached out to the Justice Department for help after making the finding after Trump returned 15 boxes of documents to the government last month. A department official reportedly requested that the National Archives bring in their inspector general to look into the incident.
What the inspector general has done since then is unclear; in particular, it is unknown whether the inspector general has submitted the subject to the Justice Department.
If a classified document is found outside of proper government channels, the inspector general must notify the Department of Justice.
Referring the matter to the Justice Department would force high-level officials to make a tough political decision—whether to launch an investigation.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the National Archives has requested an investigation by the Department of Justice into Trump’s administration’s handling of White House records.
A Representative From the National Archives did not Reply to Requests for Comment.
After a lengthy back-and-forth between Trump’s attorneys and the National Archives, Trump sent over a dozen boxes of materials in January, including records, keepsakes, gifts, and letters. Former President Obama’s letter to Trump upon his inauguration and letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were among the materials found.
The boxes also contained the infamous map on which President Trump used a black Sharpie to illustrate the path of Hurricane Dorian approaching Alabama in 2019, so lending credence to a claim he had made on Twitter that ran counter to weather reports.
Trump’s final days in office saw him packing a variety of items, including clothing, into boxes and sending them to Mar-a-Lago from the White House home. Trump was legally obligated to turn over the records, correspondence, and presents to the federal government for safekeeping in the National Archives.
During the 2016 Presidential Campaign,
Trump attacked Hillary Clinton over the FBI’s investigation into her handling of classified information while she was secretary of state. Clinton was investigated because of a national security referral made by the intelligence community inspector general.
While in office, Trump demonstrated little respect for classified information, and top White House officials were worried about this. White House chief of staff John Kelly tried to prevent Trump from bringing Oval Office confidential materials to the house, out of worry for what the president would do with them.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and Ivanka Trump, his daughter, both used their personal email accounts for official business, just like Hillary Clinton did. And despite being cautioned by staff, Trump continued to shred up government documents, which were then glued back together so he wouldn’t be accused of harming federal property.
The question of how Trump handled secret information is exacerbated by the fact that, as president, he could have declassified anything. The contents of the boxes uncovered by the National Archives remain secret, and it is unknown whether Trump declassified any of the documents before he left office. It is illegal for him to declassify government records after he leaves office, as required by federal law.
Multiple times, his administration publicly disclosed declassified information that benefited him politically, including documents related to the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.
It is unknown whether Trump brought any of the photographs he tore out of the President’s Daily Brief (a collection of often classified material about potential national security risks) with him to the White House during his final days in office. In 2019, Trump grabbed a highly classified spy satellite photograph of an Iranian missile launch location, declassified it, and shared the shot on Twitter, becoming a noteworthy example of how he handled classified material.
The Justice Department would be pitted against Trump at a time when Attorney General Merrick Garland is attempting to depoliticize the department if it was discovered that Trump took confidential papers with him when he left the White House.
The investigation into whether Clinton mishandled sensitive information left deep wounds in both the department and the FBI; the latter was accused of unfairly smearing Clinton and meddling in the 2016 race.