National Archives letter to Trump's lawyers in May outlined urgency of Mar-a-Lago document inquiry – USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Three months before FBI agents descended on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, federal officials were privately outlining the urgency of a Justice Department investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents to Trump’s attorneys, according to a May letter from the National Archives and Records Administration.
In a communication, first disclosed by the conservative media outlet Just the News, the acting archivist summarily rejected Trump’s efforts to shield documents from scrutiny and notified attorneys that FBI agents would begin reviewing an initial cache of highly-sensitive materials recovered from Trump’s Florida property in January.
Just the News’ editor John Solomon is one of two people Trump designated on June 19 as his representatives for access to administration records.
The National Archives posted a copy of the letter on its website later Tuesday.
 “There are important national security interests in the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community getting access to these materials,” Debra Steidel Wall wrote in the May 10 letter to Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran, adding that more than 100 classified documents were recovered in the initial 15 boxes of documents transferred to the National Archives from Mar-a-Lago.
The classified documents, Wall wrote, represented more than 700 pages, adding that the papers were marked as “classified national security information, up to the level of Top Secret and including Sensitive Compartmented Information and Special Access Program materials.”
The description of the documents’ sensitivity and the volume of material represents one of the fullest accounts yet of the records recovered in January.
“Some include the highest levels of classification, including Special Access Program materials,” she said. “Access to the materials is not only necessary for purposes of our ongoing criminal investigation, but the Executive Branch must also conduct an assessment of the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials were stored and transported and take any necessary remedial steps.”
Wall said that the Justice Department had advised her that “there is no precedent for an assertion of executive privilege by a former President against an incumbent President to prevent the latter from obtaining from NARAPresidential records belonging to the Federal Government.
“It is not necessary that I decide whether there might be any circumstances in which a former President could successfully assert a claim of executive privilege to prevent an Executive Branch agency from having access to Presidential records for the performance of valid executive functions,” Wall said. “The question, in this case, is not a close one.”
The archivist appeared to express frustration with the Trump team’s attempts to delay the FBI’s access to the documents by raising privilege concerns.
“It has now been four weeks since we first informed you of our intent to provide the FBI access to the boxes so that it and others in the Intelligence Community can conduct their reviews,” Wall wrote. “Notwithstanding the urgency conveyed by the Department of Justice and the reasonable extension afforded to the former President, your April 29 letter asks for additional time for you to review the materials in the boxes ‘in order to ascertain whether any specific document is subject to privilege,’ and then to consult with the former President ‘so that he may personally make any decision to assert a claim of constitutionally based privilege.'”
Wall referred to a series of prior communications with Trump’s lawyers dating to early April, but there is no mention of Trump’s more recent arguments that he had declassified the materials that had been transported to Florida at the end of his administration.
“The May 10 letter from NARA is damning to former President Trump on any number of levels – not the least of which is the lack of any reference to a claim by Trump’s representatives that he had ‘declassified’ any of the classified materials that were quite specifically at issue,” University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck tweeted Tuesday.
The disclosure of the archivist’s letter comes as Trump’s lawyers are seeking to halt the examination of a separate cache of classified documents seized from Trump’s estate earlier this month until a special master or third party is appointed to oversee the review.
In the August search, investigators recovered 11 sets of classified documents among more than 20 boxes of material carted away from the property, according to an inventory of the seizure made public earlier this month in which federal authorities revealed that they were pursuing an investigation into possible obstruction of justice and violations of the Espionage Act.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *