It was exactly four months ago tomorrow when FBI agents executed a court-approved search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, retrieving classified materials that Donald Trump took and refused to give back. But while the criminal investigation into the former president continues, an important question has lingered in the background: Are there still documents in the Republican’s possession that need to be returned?
As recently as early October, the National Archives and Records Administration told Congress that it believes some records from the Trump White House still haven’t been turned over. The New York Times reported soon after that the Justice Department delivered a similar message to the former president’s defense attorneys.
With this in mind, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell recently pressed Team Trump to do a more thorough search, and the former president hired an outside team to go through his Bedminster golf venue in New Jersey, as well as Trump Tower in New York. The Republican’s lawyers soon after concluded that the searches didn’t turn up anything.
At this point, some readers are probably expressing skepticism. “How can anyone trust a Trump-hired team to search Trump-owned properties, looking for sensitive documents Trump took and might want to hold onto?” many of you are likely asking.
And while I can appreciate the incredulity, that’s actually not where this story is headed. The Washington Post reported this afternoon:
Lawyers for former president Donald Trump found at least two items marked classified after an outside team hired by Trump searched a storage unit in West Palm Beach, Fla., used by the former president, according to people familiar with the matter. Those items were immediately turned over to the FBI, according to those people, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
At least for now, we don’t yet know the significance of the classified materials reportedly uncovered in the storage unit, though the fact that Team Trump reportedly disclosed and returned them seems like a constructive step in the right direction.
That said, these revelations don’t appear to do the former president any favors as the Justice Department’s investigation moves forward.
Right off the bat, Trump reportedly having classified items in a Floridian storage unit reinforces the apparent fact that he did not fully comply with an earlier federal subpoena, which directed him to return all of the relevant materials in his possession.
Making matters slightly worse, this story suggests the Republican took so many materials marked classified that, in a rather literal sense, he struggled to keep track of them all.
The Post’s report added this gem:
A person familiar with the matter said the storage unit had a mix of boxes, gifts, suits and clothes, among other things. “It was suits and swords and wrestling belts and all sorts of things,” this person said. “To my knowledge, he has never even been to that storage unit. I don’t think anyone in Trump world could tell you what’s in that storage unit.” There was no cataloguing of what was put in the storage unit, Trump advisers said — just as there was no cataloguing of what classified documents were taken to a room underneath Mar-a-Lago.
For now, I’m going to brush past the very odd reference to “suits and swords and wrestling belts” — I’m not sure I even want to know — and instead note that the entire 2016 presidential campaign featured an obsessive focus on Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness when it came to sensitive materials.
Little did we know at the time that her opponent would take office, steal classified documents, store them in seemingly random boxes, and then lose track of their whereabouts.