One of former President Donald Trump’s longtime aides told federal investigators that Trump repeatedly wrote to-do lists for her on White House documents marked classified, according to sources close to his statements.
As described to ABC News, the aide, Molly Michael, told investigators that — more than once — she received requests or tasks from Trump that were written on the back of index cards, and she later admitted these files as sensitive White House documents. – with visible classification markings – used to brief Trump while he was still in office on phone calls with foreign leaders or other matters related to the international community.
The index cards with the classification marks were at Trump’s property at Mar-a-Lago when FBI agents searched the property on August 8, 2022 – but the documents were not recovered by the FBI, sources say close to what Michael told investigators.
When Michael, who was not present during the search, returned to Mar-a-Lago the next day to clean out his office, she found the documents under a filing drawer and helped transfer them to the FBI that same day , sources told ABC. News.
The sources said Michael also told federal investigators that over the past year she had become increasingly concerned about how Trump had handled recurring requests from the National Archives for the return of all government documents held in boxes at Mar-a-Lago — and she felt Trump’s claims would be easy to disprove at the time, according to the sources.
Sources said that after Trump learned the FBI wanted to interview Michael last year, Trump allegedly told him, “You don’t know anything about the boxes.”
It’s not clear exactly what he meant by that.
Read the full indictment against Trump in the classified documents case, key takeaways
Read the full indictment here:
Trump pleaded not guilty in June to 37 charges related to his handling of classified documents, after prosecutors said he repeatedly refused to turn over hundreds of documents containing classified information ranging from U.S. nuclear secrets to the country’s defense capabilities, and that he had taken measures to thwart the government’s efforts. efforts to recover the documents. Trump has denied all accusations and denounced the investigation as a political witch hunt.
As ABC News previously reported, Michael is allegedly the person identified in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment as “Trump Employee 2,” described in the indictment as someone who handled numerous of Trump’s boxes at the White House at Mar-a-Lago and who provided Trump with photos of those boxes that were later included in the indictment.
Michael’s statements to investigators, reported to ABC News by sources, highlight the extent of evidence Smith has amassed to support his case against Trump.
A Trump spokesperson said that what was said to ABC News – through what he called “illegal leaks” – lacked “proper context and relevant information” and that “President Trump does not did nothing wrong, always insisted on truth and transparency, and acted appropriately, in accordance with the law.
A representative for Michael declined to comment to ABC News. The FBI also declined to comment.
In 2018, Michael became Trump’s executive assistant at the White House and she continued to work for him when Trump left office. But she resigned last year, following Trump’s alleged refusal to comply with federal requests and the FBI’s subsequent search of Mar-a-Lago.
Speaking to federal investigators, Michael recounted how, in late 2021, up to 90 boxes of documents from Trump’s time as president were moved to a basement storage room at Mar-a-Lago, and how, as pressure from the National Archives increased. — she and Trump aide Walt Nauta would bring boxes to Trump’s residence for him to examine.
Trump ultimately agreed to turn over 15 boxes of documents, which Michael told investigators she took as a positive sign, sources told ABC News.
But then, according to what she told investigators, around the same time the National Archives found nearly 200 classified documents in the 15 boxes and referred the matter to the FBI, Trump began to seem more reluctant to cooperate with the agency, and he asked Michael to help spread the word that the boxes no longer existed, sources said.
That’s when Michael became concerned, knowing that dozens of additional boxes were in the storage room, according to sources. And while Trump continued to claim that there were no more boxes, Michael even pointed out to him that many people, including the maintenance workers, knew otherwise because they all saw that there were well over 15 boxes, sources told investigators.
MORE: Trump discusses classified document he says he kept in audio recording obtained by ABC News
Smith’s indictment against Trump alleges that Trump asked one of his lawyers at the time, “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?”
Speaking later to investigators, Michael said she believed early on that claims that Trump was out of boxes were “easily” disproved, and she believed Trump knew they were false because he knew the contents of these boxes better than anyone – and because he had already seen a photo of the storage room with the approximately 90 boxes inside, ABC News was told.
The Justice Department was apparently just as skeptical.
What the FBI didn’t take
In May of last year, convinced that Trump still had a cache of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, the Justice Department subpoenaed Trump before a grand jury demanding that he turn over all classified documents.
According to the indictment, when Trump’s lawyer Evan Corcoran then planned to search for all remaining classified documents in the Mar-a-Lago storage room, Trump ordered Nauta and another aide to remove dozens of boxes from the storage room before Corcoran got there. such that many boxes were not searched and many boxes responsive to the subpoena could not be found,” the indictment states.
Corcoran found only 38 classified documents in the boxes left in the storage room, and he turned them over to the FBI, along with a certification — allegedly approved by Trump — that the former president had now fully complied to the subpoena.
But the FBI still believed Trump had even more classified documents, and when FBI agents conducted an unannounced search at Mar-a-Lago three months later, they found 102 more classified documents in Trump’s office and elsewhere .
READ MORE | How much prison time could Trump face if convicted? Document collectors have been severely punished in the past
The next day, after the FBI search, Michael returned to work at Mar-a-Lago and found his desk a little messy, with drawers turned over, sources said. Buried under a storage drawer were to-do lists Trump had written for her on the back of briefing notes with classification marks, Michael later reminded investigators, sources said.
When Michael discovered that the FBI had not taken those documents during their search at Mar-a-Lago, she was instrumental in having them turned over to the FBI that same day, the sources told ABC News.
It is unclear whether Michael informed Trump or others at Mar-a-Lago of his discovery, or whether any of these notes from the White House briefings are among the 32 different classified documents Trump is accused of illegal detention.
The indictment also accuses Trump of attempting to “obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigations” by providing, among other things, “only some of the documents requested by the grand jury subpoena , while affirming that he was fully cooperating.
In her statements to investigators, as described by ABC News sources, Michael noted that when the FBI first contacted her for an interview as part of their investigation last year, she informed Trump of this request. In response, he told her, “You don’t know anything about the boxes,” she told investigators, according to the sources.
“Everything you need from us”
A Trump campaign spokesperson, Steven Cheung, previously told ABC News that Trump “offered full cooperation with the DOJ and said (A) A key DOJ official, in person, said, “Whatever you need from us, let us know.” »
According to transcripts of contemporaneous voice notes made by Trump lawyer Corcoran and reviewed by ABC News, Trump actually made such a statement on June 3 of last year at Mar-a-Lago, when a senior department official Justice and FBI agents came to retrieve the 38 classified documents that Corcoran found in the basement storage room.
But, according to the indictment, that was the same day Trump “caused a false certification to be submitted to the FBI,” claiming there were no more classified documents. And before Trump spoke with the Justice Department official, many of his boxes were loaded onto his plane headed “north for the summer,” according to the indictment.
Additionally, after the Justice Department issued a second subpoena a few weeks later regarding security camera footage filmed at Mar-a-Lago, Trump attempted to have some of the footage deleted “to concealing information from the FBI and the grand jury,” according to the indictment.
Alongside Trump, the indictment also charged Nauta and Trump’s other aide, Carlos de Oliveira, with their alleged role in the plot to hide classified documents from the FBI.
They each pleaded not guilty.