Recent reports reveal that not only did some Trump attorneys refuse to corroborate the former president’s false statements that all of the documents sought by the National Archives and Records Administration and in his possession were returned – but it was he himself who packed the initial fifteen boxes turned over in January of this year.
According to The Washington Post:
“Alex Cannon, an attorney for Trump, had facilitated the January transfer of 15 boxes of presidential records from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives after archives officials agitated for more than a year to get ‘all original presidential records‘ back, which they are required by law to do. Following months of stonewalling by Trump’s representatives, archives officials threatened to get the Justice Department or Congress involved.”
“Trump himself eventually packed the boxes that were returned in January, people familiar with the matter said. The former president seemed determined in February to declare that all material sought by the archives had been handed over, said the people, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.”
This revelation changes the game, further implicating the former president in what could amount to obstruction of the Justice Department’s investigation – potential charges that Trump could face – and weakening claims from his legal team that the August 8th FBI search of his Palm Beach, Florida base camp was an overreach of federal powers and unwarranted.
Business Insider reported that not only did the ex-President pack the boxes himself – he did so in secrecy, illegally keeping Presidential Records belonging to the United States government.
Not even his closest aides were present during the process. So in effect, Donald Trump most likely knew what he was doing – and knew that it was wrong.
“After handing those over, he was extremely keen to claim that all documents had been returned, dictating a statement to that effect, The Post reported. But his lawyer Alex Cannon in February refused to sign it, the report said. Cannon, the report added, was not convinced that there were no more documents at Mar-a-Lago,” Business Insider wrote.
But Trump wasn’t as much of a slickster as he thought.
Among the 15 boxes, some of the materials were clearly marked as classified, alarming federal officials, and leaving little doubt that the outgoing President would have most likely seen them while personally handling the sensitive materials.
Even Trump’s lawyers knew their client was walking an almost non-existent line. The Washington Post reported that despite having the necessary clearance, attorneys Pat Philbin and John Eisenberg wished to distance themselves from the case.
“These people said neither man had participated in the packing process at Mar-a-Lago, and the duo were surprised to hear there were documents marked classified found in the boxes,” sources told the news outlet.
While his motive for intentionally withholding select records remains unclear, one thing is certain – the investigation of the potential threats to national security during the nearly year and a half back and forth will only strengthen federal investigators’ claims of violations of the Presidential Records Act and bring the scales of justice closer to the twice-impeached national disgrace.
Original reporting by Josh Dawsey and Jacqueline Alemany at The Washington Post.
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