The Justice Department investigation focuses on documents Trump removed from the White House as his term ended in January 2021. Earlier this year, officials from the National Archives and Records Administration, known as the NARA, recovered 15 boxes of presidential documents from Mar-a-Lago.
Trump’s attorneys have previously worked with NARA to voluntarily turn over certain documents, but Mar-a-Lago’s research clearly points to a new phase in the investigation. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and says the investigation is a politically motivated sham, intended to derail his potential bid to return to the White House.
Here is a timeline of key moments in the successful survey.
A NARA official contacts Trump’s team after realizing that several important documents were not delivered before Trump left the White House. Hoping to locate the missing items, NARA attorney Gary Stern contacts someone who served in the White House attorney’s office under Trump, who was the point of contact for questions. record keeping. The missing documents include some of Trump’s correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as well as the Hurricane Dorian map that Trump infamously altered with a sharp pen.
NARA is frustrated with the slow turnaround of documents after several months of conversations with the Trump team. Stern asks another Trump attorney to step in. The archivist asks about several boxes of documents that were apparently taken to Mar-a-Lago during Trump’s move to Florida. NARA still hasn’t received the White House documents they are looking for.
After months of discussions with Trump’s team, NARA retrieves 15 boxes of Trump’s White House recordings from Mar-a-Lago. NARA says in a statement that some of the files it received at the end of the Trump administration were “ripped up by former President Trump” and White House officials had to glue them back together. Not all torn documents have been reconstructed, says NARA. The boxes contained documents that were part of “special access programs”, known as SAP, which is a classification that includes protocols to severely limit who would have access to the information.
February 9, 2022
News organizations, including CNN, report that NARA has asked the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records and whether he violated the Presidential Records Act and other laws relating to classified information. The Presidential Records Act requires that all records created by a sitting president be turned over to the National Archives at the end of their administration.
February 18, 2022
NARA informs the Department of Justice that some of the documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago included classified documents. NARA also told the department that, despite being warned it was illegal, Trump tore up documents while he was president and senior Trump administration officials failed to properly preserve their messages. on social media, their draft tweets and deleted tweets.
April and May 2022
On April 7, NARA publicly acknowledges for the first time that the Justice Department is involved, and media reports that prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into Trump’s mishandling of classified documents. Around this time, FBI agents quietly question Trump aides at Mar-a-Lago about the handling of presidential records as part of their expanded investigation.
May 12, 2022
News organizations report that investigators have subpoenaed NARA for access to classified documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago. The subpoena, which is part of the process for investigators to take possession of NARA documents, is the first public indication of the Justice Department using a grand jury in its investigation.
June 3, 2022
Four investigators, including a senior Justice Department counterintelligence official, travel to Mar-a-Lago to seek more information about classified documents that have been taken to Florida. The four investigators meet with Trump’s lawyers and look around the basement room where the documents are stored. Trump briefly stops by the meeting to say hello to the officials, but he doesn’t answer any questions. During the meeting, federal officials serve a grand jury subpoena for some of the sensitive national security documents at the scene, and they take away the subpoenaed documents.
June 8, 2022
Trump’s lawyers receive a letter from federal investigators asking them to further secure the room where the documents are stored. In response, Trump aides add a padlock to the room in the basement of Mar-a-Lago.
June 22, 2022
Federal investigators sign a subpoena to the Trump Organization, demanding surveillance video from Mar-a-Lago. Trump’s company complies with the subpoena and hands over the footage. CNN reported that this was part of an effort to gather information about who had access to areas of the club where government documents were stored. The subpoena was served on June 22, according to the Wall Street Journal.
August 8, 2022
The FBI executes a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago – a major escalation in the investigation of the classified documents. The search focused on the club area where Trump’s offices and personal quarters are located. Federal agents remove boxes of equipment from the property. It was the first time in American history that the home of a former president was searched as part of a criminal investigation.
August 11, 2022
After three days of silence, Attorney General Merrick Garland makes a brief public statement about the investigation. He reveals he personally approved of the decision to seek a search warrant and pushes back against what he called “unfounded attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and the Justice Department.” Garland also announces that the Justice Department will ask a judge to unseal some of the search warrant documents, in the interest of transparency. Trump said in a late-night post on his Truth Social platform that he “will not oppose the release of materials” related to the research.
August 12, 2022
Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart approves the unsealing of Mar-a-Lago’s search warrant and property receipt, at the request of the Justice Department and after Trump’s lawyers agreed to the release. The warrant reveals that the Justice Department is looking into possible violations of the Espionage Act, Obstruction of Justice and Criminal Handling of Government Records, as part of its investigation.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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