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Does Trump still have official docs he’s not supposed to have?

Does Donald Trump, even now, still have official documents he’s not supposed to have? There's some uncertainty that Congress is eager to resolve.


At this point, it’s tempting to think of Donald Trump’s scandal about classified documents as something that happened in the recent past: The former president effectively stole official materials, ignored appeals to return them, and allegedly obstructed the retrieval process. It’s why the FBI showed up at Mar-a-Lago with a court-approved search warrant.

But what if part of the problem is ongoing? Or more to the point, what if the Republican, even now, still has materials he’s not supposed to have?

In a court filing last week, the Justice Department complained about U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s injunction, blocking federal investigators from examining documents they’ve already recovered from the former president’s property. Prosecutors specifically wrote that the Trump-appointed judge’s recent ruling could “impede efforts to identify the existence of any additional classified records that are not being properly stored.”

The phrasing raised the provocative possibility that some materials have not been recovered. It also dovetailed with a recent Washington Post report in which officials with the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA, suggested that they, too, feared that the former president had not yet surrendered everything he took.

It was against this backdrop that The New York Times reported this morning:

The National Archives has informed congressional aides that it is still unsure whether former President Donald J. Trump has surrendered all of the presidential records he removed from the White House as required, even after months of negotiations, a subpoena and a search of his Florida property, Mar-a-Lago, according to the House Oversight Committee.

In a letter to the acting national archivist, House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney noted that archives staff “recently informed the committee that the agency is not certain whether all presidential records are in its custody.”

With this uncertainty in mind, the New York Democrat’s letter, dated today, requested that the archives “conduct an urgent review of presidential records from the Trump administration to identify any presidential records or categories of presidential records, whether textual or electronic, that NARA has reason to believe may still be outside of the agency’s custody and control.”

Also of interest was Maloney’s request that the National Archives “seek a personal certification from Donald Trump that he has surrendered all presidential records that he illegally removed from the White House after leaving office.”

How likely is it that the former president will personally certify that he has given up all of the records he illegally kept? I’m inclined to put this in the “not going to happen” category.

That said, assuming Trump does refuse to acknowledge that he’s no longer breaking the law, this would itself be a striking development. Watch this space.