When reviewing the timeline of events in Donald Trump’s classified documents scandal, one of the dates that stands out is June 3, 2022. That was the day in which Jay Bratt, the chief of the counterespionage section of the national security division of the Justice Department, went to Mar-a-Lago with a few FBI agents in the hopes of retrieving documents the former president improperly took and refused to voluntarily give back.
Much of the focus has been on what transpired on that day and soon after, and for good reason: We know from court filings that it was at that meeting when Trump’s representatives said their client had fully complied with a grand jury subpoena and no longer had any classified materials at his glorified country club. We now know, of course, that wasn’t true.
But let’s not overlook the significance of what reportedly happened in the runup to June 3. The Washington Post reported this afternoon:
Two of Donald Trump’s employees moved boxes of papers the day before FBI agents and a prosecutor visited the former president’s Florida home to retrieve classified documents in response to a subpoena — timing that investigators have come to view as suspicious and an indication of possible obstruction, according to people familiar with the matter.
According to the Post’s reporting, which has not been independently confirmed by MSNBC or NBC News, Trump and members of his team also allegedly carried out a “dress rehearsal” for moving sensitive papers even before receiving the federal subpoena.
The same article went on to note that Justice Department prosecutors have also gathered evidence indicating that the former president “at times kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others.”
At his town hall event on CNN last week, Kaitlan Collins asked Trump whether he ever showed the classified documents he took to anyone. The Republican’s response did not inspire confidence. “Not really,” he replied. Asked what that meant, the former president added, “Not that I can think of.”
To reiterate a point from last month, it’s worth re-emphasizing that this Trump scandal has never been primarily about the former president’s decision to take White House documents to his glorified country club. To be sure, that wasn’t ideal, but as we’ve learned, it’s a mistake that others — including President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence — have made.
What pushes Trump’s controversy to a far more serious level is what he did after taking sensitive materials to Mar-a-Lago: The Republican not only refused to return the documents, the question is whether he also obstructed the retrieval process.
If the Post’s reporting is correct, the answer is coming into focus in ways that appear to put Trump in real legal jeopardy.
Indeed, it’s problematic enough that there’s been months of reporting about Team Trump reportedly moving boxes of materials after receiving a subpoena, and ahead of the June 3 meeting. But today’s reporting, if confirmed, suggests the former president and his operation — among other things — may have also taken related steps in preparation for a possible subpoena.
For his part, Trump has denied wrongdoing. This week, he released a copy of the letter his lawyers sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland, requesting a meeting in the apparent hopes of avoiding an indictment.