A new report in the New York Times confirms that former president Donald Trump accumulated around two dozen boxes of documents in his White House residence prior to leaving office and failed to return them to the National Archives. These included letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
According to the report, “where the articles ended up is not clear.” Although White House Counsel’s Office had told Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s last chief of staff, that the “roughly two dozen boxes” worth of material in the residence needed to sent back to the Archives, some of the boxes were shipped to Florida instead. Inside those boxes were the letters from Kim Jong-un and documents marked “highly classified.”
The lengthy feature recounts Trump’s final days in office as he refused to let go of power. It suggests that it was Meadows’ responsibility to return the documents and the contents of the boxes to the National Archives. According to those interviewed, Meadows affirmed he would ensure the administration complied with the Presidential Records Act, which states that records generated in the Oval Office belong to the taxpayers, however his focus was elsewhere.
As Trump’s tenure as president drew to an end, the White House emailed all of its offices detailed instructions about returning documents. According to a source, Meadows followed up on those notes and encouraged the offices to comply with the instructions. He also said he would speak with Trump about the records in his residence.
It became clear in early 2021 that records were missing from the National Archives, prompting officials to reach out to members of Trump’s team. Their priorities were the letters from Kim Jong-un and a letter left on the Resolute Desk by former president Barack Obama for Trump during the transition of power. However, many of the documents were not retrieved until January 2022 when the officials gathered 15 boxes from Mar-a-Lago and referred the issue to the Justice Department, who have been investigating it since.
Elsewhere in the article is confirmation that former vice president Mike Pence did not depart office with any documents. It concludes with an anecdote about President Joe Biden’s arrival to the Oval Office, where he received a two-page, hand-written letter from Trump. “The new president remarked that Mr. Trump had been more gracious in the letter than he had anticipated,” the Times notes. That letter has since been given to the National Archives.
Since the raid on Mar-a-Lago, the FBI is continuing to investigate Trump. The former president and his staff have claimed the docs were actually declassified by a mysterious “standing” declassification rule. Now the feds are investigating Trump’s alibi to see if anyone besides Trump heard about it, as Rolling Stone recently reported.
This week, a federal judge in Florida ordered the redaction of the affidavit that led the search of the Mar-a-Lago estate, clearing the way for its potential release. Judge Bruce Reinhart, who signed off on the search warrant the FBI executed last Monday, ruled on Thursday that the Justice Department has until next Thursday at noon to file a redacted version of affidavit.