On Tuesday (August 23), National Archives released a letter that shows former President Donald Trump had resisted turning over an apparently much larger tranche of documents than what was taken from Mar-a-Lago in January. This revelation could strengthen a potential case by the Department of Justice against the former President.
The National Archives letter reveals that, initially, 15 boxes of documents, including 100 classified documents totaling 700 pages, were removed from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in January.
Reporting by the New York Times also shows that since Trump left the Oval Office, the government has recovered at least 300 classified documents.
These revelations give greater insight into the number of documents Trump took when he left office but also throws into question whether the delay in retrieving these documents harmed national security.
But the National Archives letter reveals a more concerning aspect of Trump having these documents in his possession: a resistance by the former President’s team to the intelligence community reviewing the documents.
Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney, noted that any charges the DOJ was considering required showing intent.
“The volume of the documents and the length of the dispute, I think, makes the case stronger for the government that Donald Trump’s retention of these documents was willful,” McQuade stated.
She also elaborated that Trump holding onto documents despite several visits by authorities could show intention.
“When you have 300 of them, and you retain them for over a year after repeated requests, and they come down a few times, and you still have them — it seems that the case has become much stronger. And I think it becomes much more difficult for the Justice Department to simply say, ‘We’ve got documents back. We’re going to declare victory and go home,'” the former U.S. attorney added.
The National Archives also noted that the former President’s legal team was aware as early as April that the FBI wanted to obtain the documents to do a damage assessment to determine if there was fallout related to the mishandling of the documents.