Trump told advisers last year he would return Mar-a-Lago files in exchange for ‘sensitive’ documents about FBI probe into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia: NYT

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters while hosting Republican congressional leaders and members of his Cabinet in the Oval Office of the White House on July 20, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Then-President Donald Trump speaks to reporters while hosting Republican congressional leaders and members of his Cabinet in the Oval Office of the White House on July 20, 2020.Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

  • Trump shot down the idea of ​​swapping Mar-a-Lago boxes for documents on the Russia probe, according to The NYT.

  • Aides to Trump did not submit his proposal to the National Archives, knowing it would be rejected.

  • Trump repeatedly delayed the agency’s calls for him to turn over the boxes, according to the paper.

Former President Donald Trump late last year shot down the idea of ​​swapping the files he took from the White House to Mar-a-Lago in exchange for “sensitive” documents about the FBI’s investigation into his 2016 campaign tapes to Russia, according to The New York Times.

When the National Archives pressed Trump to return dozens of official documents stored at his Mar-a-Lago estate in South Florida that were not in their possession, the former president — still reeling from the Russia investigation — became frustrated with the government the agency’s refusal to release documents he believed would support his claims, according to The Times.

Trump told advisers that in order to gain access to those documents, he would give the archives the boxes of materials stored at Mar-a-Lago, according to the newspaper.

Aides to the former president did not go through with the motion, but it was one of several ways the former president repeatedly delayed calls from the archives to turn over the documents at his personal residence.

Shortly after Trump entered the White House, there were clear concerns about the then-president’s tendency to bring documents to his bedroom, and nearly midway through his tenure, it became an obstacle for individuals to locate the files in the residential area of ​​the historic building. knowledge of the situation, who spoke to the Times.

During Trump’s third year in office, top White House officials were aware that specific files were in places where they were not intended to be kept.

After Trump left the Oval Office, Trump’s representatives were told by National Archives General Counsel Gary M. Stern to have the former president return the files in the boxes.

Stern had a series of conversations with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about the cases, along with three lawyers who had been employed by the White House counsel’s office.

According to The Times, Stern continued to push for missing boxes in September 2021, but Trump informed Meadows that they only had newspaper clippings and other personal items.

Meadows relayed Trump’s message to former White House counsel Patrick Philbin, who then passed the message on to Stern.

However, the archives stated that even newspaper clippings and article transcripts were viewed as presidential records to be turned over to the agency.

Late last year, former White House counsel Eric Herschmann told Trump he could run into significant legal trouble if he did not hand over the documents requested by the archives, according to The Times.

After the former president told advisers the boxes were “mine,” he agreed to review the files in December 2021, according to the newspaper. Stern was then told the boxes were ready for pickup.

Among Trump’s representatives, no one informed Stern that there were classified files in the boxes, according to The Times.

As the archives began to open the boxes, they realized they were seeing the files in a room unsuitable for such high-level documents and were quick to transport the boxes to more secure zones where the files could be closely examined, according to the newspaper. .

The FBI would later execute a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago in August in search of classified documents it suspected Trump took to Mar-a-Lago after leaving office. The Justice Department is investigating whether Trump violated three federal laws regarding the handling of classified information, including the Espionage Act.

Trump has long been fixated on the Justice Department’s investigation into campaign ties to Russia leading up to his first presidential run; he has repeatedly called the investigation a “hoax” intended to damage his presidency.

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