What WERE FBI agents looking for at Mar-a-Lago?
FBI agents who raided Donald Trump’s Florida estate have been in discussions since June with his legal team about a trove of presidential documents on the property, it emerged on Monday night, as speculation continued to swirl about what exactly they were looking for.
The raid was carried out on Monday, and confirmed by Trump himself. The White House is believed to have learnt of the raid when the rest of the world did, and was not informed in advance.
In February it emerged that Trump had taken classified documents out of the White House when he left in January 2021, and some of those were handed over to the National Archives.
Monday’s raid is thought likely to be related to the remaining boxes of documents, although it remained unclear why the FBI decided to raid the estate.
‘They even broke into my safe!’ Trump complained of the raid. He is seen on Monday night leaving Trump Tower
Trump’s Florida home, Mar-a-Lago, was raided on Monday by FBI agents
Trump himself was in New York City at the time, and was pictured on Monday evening leaving Trump Tower in Manhattan.
CNN reported on Monday evening that investigators were at Mar-a-Lago on June 8, meeting Trump’s lawyers to discuss the documents.
Trump was not questioned, the network reported, but stopped by and greeted the investigators and his two attorneys.
The two attorneys then took the investigators to a basement room and showed them where the documents were stored.
Five days later, Trump’s attorneys received a letter asking them to enhance the security on the store room, and a padlock was then placed on the door.
It’s unclear why the FBI then decided to raid the property.
‘Something has happened and they are no longer confident that those records are safe,’ said Shawn Wu, a former federal prosecutor.
News of the raid came after photos were published showing shredded documents stuffed down a toilet.
Maggie Haberman, New York Times correspondent, first mentioned the reports of the destroyed documents in February, but on Monday she tweeted photos.
Trump himself denied destroying documents and flushing them down the toilet.
Maggie Haberman, a New York Times White House correspondent who closely followed Trump during his presidency for an upcoming book, claimed to have obtained pictures of handwritten notes stuffed into the bowls. She says this image is from a White House toilet
The images published by Axios purportedly show two sets of notes in the toilets, though they do not appear to be official documents. This image, Haberman claims, is from a toilet on an overseas trip
In February, it first emerged that Trump took classified documents out of the White House and to his Mar-a-Lago resort – including some labeled ‘top secret.’
Congress opened up an investigation into Trump’s handling of White House records after he denied that he flushed official documents down the toilet and insisted he handed over boxes to the National Archives willingly.
‘Also, another fake story, that I flushed papers and documents down a White House toilet, is categorically untrue and simply made up by a reporter in order to get publicity for a mostly fictitious book,’ he wrote in a statement.
National Archives officials earlier this year recovered 15 boxes of White House materials from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence – in apparent contravention of the federal records acts – and reports emerged in February that the former president would often rip official documents and send others to be incinerated at the Pentagon.
Trump insisted that the transfer of boxes to the National Archives and Records Administration was done ‘openly and willingly’.
An item that reportedly made its way to Mar-a-Lago is a mini replica of a redesigned Air Force One that former President Donald Trump used to display in the Oval Office. The Washington Post reported that classified material made its way to the Florida resort
The National Archives was forced to retrieve boxes of official White House records from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida (pictured)
Boxes were spotted just outside the West Wing in the days leading up to former President Donald Trump’s last day in office
In response to the seizure of materials, the House Oversight and Reform Committee opened a probe into Trump’s improperly removing or destroying White House documents.
‘Removing or concealing government records is a criminal offense punishable by up to three years in prison,’ the congressional letter to NARA Archivist David Ferriero notes.
Trump also dismissed the probe, claiming: ‘The media’s characterization of my relationship with NARA is Fake News. It was exactly the opposite! It was a great honor to work with NARA to help formally preserve the Trump Legacy.’
In her forthcoming book Confidence Man, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman claims that White House staff found wads of printed paper clogging a toilet and believed Trump was the culprit, according to an Axios report.
People wait for a moving van as they move boxes out of the Eisenhower Executive Office building on January 14, 2021
She also doubled down on this reporting in an appearance on CNN’s New Day on Thursday morning.
‘As I was reporting out this book, I learned that staff in White House residence would periodically find the toilet clogged,’ she detailed. ‘The engineer would have to come and fix it.’
‘And what the engineer would find would be wads of clumped up wet, printed paper – meaning it was not toilet paper,’ Haberman continued. ‘It was either notes or some other piece of paper that they believe he had thrown down the toilet.’
She did not speculate further on what was on the papers – claiming it could even just be post-it notes to himself.
During his presidency, Trump often raised eyebrows when he would lament on water pressure in Washington, D.C. claiming his administration was looking into relaxing water-saving regulations for toilets, sinks and showers.
‘People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times as opposed to once. They end up using more water,” Trump said while talking with business owners in December 2019. ‘The EPA is looking at that very strongly at my suggestion.’
‘Staff in White House residence would periodically find the toilet clogged,’ Haberman detailed to CNN Thursday of reporting her in forthcoming book. ‘The engineer would have to come and fix it. And what the engineer would find would be wads of clumped up wet, printed paper – meaning it was not toilet paper’
Trump denied these claims in a lengthy statement Thursday, calling it ‘another fake story’ that was ‘made up by a reporter in order to get publicity for a mostly fictitious book’
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman’s upcoming book Confident Man details the paper flushing after reports emerged that Trump ripped, burned and held onto official documents that needed to be preserved and handed over to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at the end of his presidency
Trump would repeat at rallies that people end up using more water by flushing multiple times or showering for longer than usual.
The former president pointed in his statement to the hypocrisy of the investigation into his handling of documents and keeping of mementos, questioning why his rival Hillary Clinton wasn’t forced to hand over her 32,000 emails.
‘I have been told I was under no obligation to give this material based on various legal rulings that have been made over the years,’ Trump insisted in his Thursday statement.
‘Crooked Hillary Clinton, as an example, deleted and acid washed 32,000 emails and never gave that to the government,’ he added. ‘Then, they took large amounts of furniture out of the White House. And Bill Clinton kept numerous audio recordings that the archives wanted, but were unsuccessful at getting after going to court. We won’t even mention what is going on with the White House in the current, or various past administrations.’
‘In the United States there has unfortunately become two legal standards, one for Republicans and one for Democrats. It should not be that way!’
The National Archives and Records Administration has asked the Justice Department to look into the former president’s removal of White House records as he left office – opening up a new area of potential legal exposure for Trump.
Charging a former president with violating the Presidential Records Act if any misconduct were ever established would be new territory, and Trump has already survived two impeachments while fighting off probes of his business in Manhattan and contending facing an election probe in Georgia.
The House January 6th Committee’s probe, which recently received a trove of Trump White House records, has also brought to light Trump’s penchant for tearing up documents while in office.
Archival officials have been required to tape together documents in an effort to preserve materials that under law are the property of the U.S. government, not the president who creates or receives them.
The House Oversight panel, chaired by New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, is asking NARA to provide clarification on what it found in the 15 boxes it seized from Trump in Mar-a-Lago.
‘Please provide a detailed description of the contents of the recovered boxes,’ one of the points insists in the letter to Ferriero.
Another asks: ‘Is NARA aware of presidential records that President Trump destroyed or attempted to destroy without the approval of NARA?’
‘If so, please provide a detailed description of such records, the actions taken by President Trump to destroy or attempt to destroy them, and any actions NARA has taken to recover or preserve these documents.’
The government watchdog group Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive on Tuesday called for the DOJ to investigate, saying Trump ‘likely violated criminal laws barring the destruction of government records.
‘Donald Trump’s repeated and apparently willful destruction of his presidential records threatens to deny the American people a full historical record of his presidency and an opportunity to hold him and his administration fully accountable for their actions while in power,’ said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. ‘There is no excuse for hiding important information from the public. The Department of Justice must act to investigate and to hold Trump accountable for his reckless behavior ‘
Among the items items the National Archives retrieved from Mar-a-Lago is the infamous hurricane map that the president allegedly scrawled on with a Sharpie pen to expand its possible path.
Another keepsake that a source told the Post had been removed was a mini replica of Air Force One that Trump proudly displayed in the Oval Office, after involving himself in details of a redesign all the way down to a paint job.
A former aide said Trump displayed at Mar-a-Lago a ‘mini replica of one of the black border-wall slats’ that Trump helped design for his border wall.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee is opening a probe into Trump’s document handling after a report revealed Archives officials retrieved 15 boxes of materials from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence
The former president’s aides continue to look for material that belongs to the U.S. government.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Amid the heightened scrutiny, Trump is now calling the relationship with the National Archives ‘collaborative and respectful,’ and boasting some of the material will end up in a presidential library bearing his name – although there are no plans for a site for such a library a year after Trump left office.
‘Much of this material will someday be displayed in the Donald J. Trump Presidential Library for the public to view my Administration’s incredible accomplishments for the American People,’ he said in a statement.
‘Former President Trump’s representatives have informed NARA that they are continuing to search for additional Presidential records that belong to the National Archives,’ the National Archives and Records Administration said in a statement Monday.
Sources told the Washington Post Archives officials had forwarded the matter to the Justice Department for review. Here Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul about gun violence
Officials at the National Archives are charged with preserving presidential records
The trove of information Trump failed to hand over when he left the White House in January, 2021 includes his ‘love letters’ with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
It also included original versions of the letter former President Obama left for Trump in the top drawer of the Resolute Desk, where he told his successor: ‘We are just temporary occupants of this office. That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions – like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties.’
Federal record-keeping laws establish jail time and possible forfeiture of office for those convicted of serious crimes.
Congress enacted the Presidential Record Act after Watergate, and after Congress stepped in and ‘seizing Richard Nixon’s papers as if they were in a crime scene,’ former head of the Nixon Library Dr. Timothy Naftali told DailyMail.com.
The New York University professor said record-keeping laws are not just designed to help historians and researchers, but to constrain behavior.
‘And it’s the knowledge, I would think, that people with power have that in the future we will know what they did, which has a I think useful and healthy constraining effect on them. That there will ultimately be accountability,’ he said.
‘They also understand that the actions that they might take for an authoritarian president could hurt them in the future that is healthy for constitutional republic.’
The retrieval follows reports the National Archives had to tape Trump documents back together after he ripped them office, routinely destroyed documents and had files put in ‘burn bags’ and sent to the Pentagon to be incinerated.
The National Archives retrieved 15 boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lago, where former President Donald Trump has offices and where he resides. Included was an infamous ‘sharpie’ map with the track of approaching Hurricane Dorian in 2019
The president also often had White House staffer put documents in ‘burn bags’ to be destroyed via incineration at the Pentagon rather than preserved, a senior Trump White House official told the Washington Post.
So-called burn bags look similar to a paper grocery bag and are widely available throughout the White House complex, as well as at organizations who deal with top-secret information like the CIA and NSA.
Burn bags are a superior alternative to shredding.
The New York Times reported that the trove of information includes the infamous map, which was printed on a poster to show the storm track of Hurricane Dorian in 2019 during a live televised briefing.
Trump had tweeted earlier that ‘in addition to Florida — South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.’
The black lines hastily added to the map appeared to justify Trump’s statement, even though Alabama’s national weather office had contradicted Trump’s claim by writing: ‘Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.’ Trump said afterwards that under projections, Alabama was going to be hit ‘very hard.’
‘The Presidential Records Act mandates that all Presidential records must be properly preserved by each Administration so that a complete set of Presidential records is transferred to the National Archives at the end of the Administration,’ Archivist David S. Ferriero said in the statement.
He said the agency ‘pursues the return of records whenever we learn that records have been improperly removed or have not been appropriately transferred to official accounts.’ He called the records act ‘critical to our democracy,’ and defended its purpose, without rebuking Trump directly.
Trump’s record-keeping practices were already under scrutiny. Aides say he was known to rip up documents
The U.S. Code establishes fines and jail time, and even forfeiture of office, as possible penalties for violating federal document laws
Ferriero further stressed the importance of adherence to the PRA by all Presidents.
‘Whether through the creation of adequate and proper documentation, sound records management practices, the preservation of records, or the timely transfer of them to the National Archives at the end of an Administration, there should be no question as to need for both diligence and vigilance. Records matter,’ he concluded.
House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said she plans to ‘fully investigate’ the matter to make sure the records are with the Archives, ‘rather than stashed away in Trump’s golf resorts.’
The Washington Post, which broke the story of the transfer, reported that Trump’s records stash also included unidentified ‘gifts.’
The post-Watergate records statute resulted in a section of the U.S. Code on concealment or mutilation of documents.
It states that: ‘Whoever willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, or destroys, or attempts to do so, or, with intent to do so takes and carries away any record, proceeding, map, book, paper, document, or other thing, filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office, or with any judicial or public officer of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.’
It continues: ‘Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States. As used in this subsection, the term ‘office’ does not include the office held by any person as a retired officer of the Armed Forces of the United States.’
The 15 boxes of information included letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that had been improperly removed by the ex commander-in-chief.
The documents and gifts, which should have been turned over to The National Archives and Records Administration at the end of Trump’s presidency, were retrieved by the agency last month, the Archives confirmed in a statement Monday.
Under the Presidential Records Act, memos, notes, letters, emails, faxes and other written correspondence related to the president’s official duties must be handed to the National Archives for preservation.
The documents from Mar-a-Lago included letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which have been described as ‘love letters’
Trump once said of his friendly correspondence with Kim that they ‘fell in love’ after meeting in person. Some describe the back-and-forth with the U.S. president and North Korean dictator as ‘love letters’.
One former Trump aide said they don’t think the ex-president acted with criminal intent, adding that the boxes of papers contained letters from world leaders as well as gifts and mementos.
‘I don’t think he did this out of malicious intent to avoid complying with the Presidential Records Act,’ the individual told the The Washington Post.
‘As long as he’s been in business, he’s been very transactional and it was probably his longtime practice and I don’t think his habits changed when he got to the White House.’
A Trump spokesperson did not respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment on the document seizure.
While law requires presidents preserve records related to administration activity, the National Archives has limited enforcement over this. One Archives official said that the Act operates through more of a ‘gentlemen’s agreement.’
Trump lost his bid last month to block the release of presidential documents from the National Archives to the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot.
The House panel received the documents in January 2022.
The Supreme Court had ruled that the archives could turn over the documents, which include presidential diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts and handwritten notes dealing with Jan. 6 from the files of former chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Trump’s lawyers had hoped to prolong the court fight and keep the documents on hold.
The documents, which the panel first requested in August, will add to the tens of thousands the committee has already gathered as it investigates the attack by a violent mob of Trump’s supporters and what the former president and his aides were doing while it unfolded.
The documents and gifts, which should have been turned over to The National Archives and Records Administration at the end of Trump’s presidency, were retrieved by the agency last month
TRANSCRIPTS OF KIM JONG UN’S ‘LOVE’ LETTERS TO TRUMP
DECEMBER 25, 2018: Letter from Kim Jong Un to President Trump
It has been 200 days since the historic DPRK-US summit in Singapore this past June, and the year is now almost coming to an end. Even now I cannot forget that moment of history when I firmly held Your Excellency’s hand at that beautiful and sacred location as the whole world watched with great interest and hope to relive the honor of that day. As I mentioned at that time, I feel very honored to have established an excellent relationship with a person such as Your Excellency.
As the new year 2019 approaches, critical issues that require endless effort toward even higher ideals and goals still await us. Just as Your Excellency frankly noted, as we enter the new year the whole world will certainly once again come to see, not so far in the future, another historic meeting between myself and Your Excellency reminiscent of a scene from a fantasy film.
I have already instructed my closest and most trusted colleagues and the relevant organs to speed up the preparations for holding a second DPRK-US summit and am prepared to achieve good results with Your Excellency during the next meeting.
Nevertheless, what worries me is that it may not reflect positively on us should both sides appear to stubbornly insist on our respective positions regarding the location of the summit. It could also result in wasting a lot of time. Therefore, my position is to urgently hold senior-level contact between the DPRK and the US to internally (translator’s note: privately) discuss and coordinate issues regarding the location.
I hope that Your Excellency will once again demonstrate great decisiveness and excellent leadership to accomplish results in the second DPRK summit. I wholeheartedly hope that the things that Your Excellency seeks to achieve will come to great fruition.
I wish the honorable First Lady, your family and those close to you good health, happiness and great success.
Sincerely, with unchanging respect for Your Excellency the President,
Chairman State Affairs Commission
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Kim Jong Un
25 December 2018
JUNE 10, 2019: Letter from Kim Jong Un to President Trump
Your Excellency Mr. President,
I am writing this letter to you as we are nearing the first anniversary of our meeting in Singapore on June 12 — the historic moment of great significance that captured the attention of the world and left an imprint still indelible in my memory — as well as to congratulate you on your birthday, which is just days away. I take it as a great honor to be able to send such a letter to Your Excellency.
I extend my sincere and warm regards to Your Excellency on the occasion of your birthday. My regards also to the First Lady and the rest of your family and all your people, and I wish everyone good health and happiness and hope that everyone’s dream will become a beautiful reality.
Like the brief time we had together a year ago in Singapore, every minute we shared 103 days ago in Hanoi was also a moment of glory that remains a precious memory. Such a precious memory that I have in my unwavering respect for you will provide impetus for me to take my steps when we walk toward each other again someday in the future.
I also believe that the deep and special friendship between us will work as a magical force that leads the progress of the DPRK-US relations, clearing all the hurdles we face in the process of bringing about the developments we seek to achieve.
Your Excellency Mr. President, I still respect and lay my hopes on the will and determination that you showed in our first meeting to resolve the issue of our unique style that nobody had ever tried, and to write a new history. Today’s reality is that without a new approach and the courage it takes, the prospects for resolution of the issue will only be bleak.
I believe the one day will come sooner or later when we sit down together to make great things happen, with the will to give another chance to our mutual trust. Such a day should come again. It may well be recorded as yet another fantastic moment in history.
I assure Your Excellency that my respect for you will never change.
Happy birthday once again, Your Excellency. I hope Your Excellency will always be in good health and achieve success in your work. I extend my best wishes on behalf of my family to the First Lady and the rest of your family.
Kim Jong Un
Two of the transcripts of the letters between the US and North Korean leaders, released by CNN , were among a slew of allegations in Woodward’s new book that surfaced on Wednesday
‘The only way that a president can really be held accountable long term is to preserve a record about who said what, who did what, what policies were encouraged or adopted, and that is such an important part of the long-term scope of accountability — beyond just elections and campaigns,’ presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky told the Washington Post.
Chervinksy added that it would also affect U.S. national security if records and documents are not disclosed. ‘That could pose a real concern if the next administration is flying blind without that information,’ she said.
Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a member of the January 6 House panel, said that the overall records situation reflected the ‘unconventional nature of how this White House operated’. She added that she did not have knowledge of the transfer of documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
‘That they didn’t follow rules is not a shock,’ Murphy said. ‘As for how this development relates to the committee’s work, we have different sources and methods for obtaining documents and information that we are seeking.’
While recent administrations have in some way violated the Presidential Records Act, sources told the newspaper that Trump’s administration is different due to the scale of the records retrieved from Mar-a-Lago.
One person said it is ‘out of the ordinary. The National Archives and Records Administration has never had that kind of volume transfer after the fact like this.’
And now, the recovery of the boxes of official White House records from Trump’s Florida estate raises questions about his adherence to the Act
A lawyer who worked in the White House Counsel’s Office under President Obama questioned why it took a year for the boxes to get to the archives.
‘Things that are national security sensitive or very clearly government documents should have been a part of a first sweep – so the fact that it’s been this long doesn’t reflect well on Trump,’ the lawyer said. ‘Why has it taken a year for these boxes to get there? And are there more boxes?’
Some of the papers handed over to the select committee were taped together by National Archives staff because they had been ripped up, the agency revealed in a statement.
‘Some of the Trump presidential records received by the National Archives and Records Administration included paper records that had been torn up by former President Trump,’ the Archives told CNN without explaining how it was known that Trump was the individual who defaced the records.
‘These were turned over to the National Archives at the end of the Trump Administration, along with a number of torn-up records that had not been reconstructed by the White House,’ the Archives said.
‘The Presidential Records Act requires that all records created by presidents be turned over to the National Archives at the end of their administrations.’
The Archives has struggled with Trump’s lack of retention of documents and his habit of ripping papers when he was done with them.
The ex-president frequently ripped up official documents so hundreds of pages that arrived at the Archives were taped back together while others came to them still in pieces.
Charles Tiefer, former counsel to the House of Representatives, said if there is ‘willful and unlawful intent’ to violate the Act by people concealing or destroying public records, they would face up to three years in prison.
‘You can’t prosecute for just tearing up papers,’ he said. ‘You would have to show him being highly selective and have evidence that he wanted to behave unlawfully.’