People familiar with the situation say a senior Justice Department official recently informed Donald Trump’s legal team that law enforcement agents do not believe the ex-president returned all of the federal records. Despite the claim that he returned the documents, he took them with him after he left the White House.
The message from Jay Bratt, chief of the counterintelligence and export-control department of the Department of Justice, was the most recent sign that the agency is still pursuing some information that it believes Mr. Trump should have turned over upon leaving office.
Congress was informed last month that the National Archives and Records Administration had not retrieved all presidential records intended to be handed over, adding there is “no easy way to establish absolute accountability.”
There was no comment from the Justice Department on the New York Times earlier account of Mr. Bratt’s contact. Taylor Budowich, the spokesperson for Mr. Trump, did not address the content of the conversation between the government and the former president’s attorneys in a statement.
Mr. Budowich stated that a “weaponized Department of Justice and the politicized FBI” are spending tens of millions of American tax dollars to sustain “one witch hunt after another.”
The FBI seized over 11,000 papers while searching for Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on August 8. This unusual measure came after NARA stated that Mr. Trump’s crew failed to hand up all the records. According to the NARA, this was after following multiple less intrusive attempts to acquire them earlier this year.
It was unclear what, if anything, law enforcement authorities intended to do to retrieve the missing material and what the Justice Department believes it has yet to recover.
With the former president embroiled in a legal dispute with the federal government, the Justice Department’s efforts to analyze papers taken from Mr. Trump’s Florida residence have stalled. A federal judge ordered a retired judge, known as a special master, to independently investigate the records obtained by the FBI last month.
An appeals court recently ruled that the department could resume reviewing approximately 100 classified documents. The court later agreed to expedite its appeal of a broader ruling to challenge U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision to halt the criminal investigation for months so the special master could review evidence.
This Thursday, Mr. Trump’s legal team petitioned the Supreme Court to furnish the special master with the sensitive materials. After receiving the petition, Justice Clarence Thomas allowed the Justice Department one week to prepare a response brief.
The receipt indicates that one of the boxes discovered in Mr. Trump’s office at Mar-a-Lago had contained 99 newspaper and magazine clippings from the past two years, along with seven top-secret documents, 15 secret documents, 43 empty folders marked as classified, and 28 empty folders labeled “Return to Staff Secretary/Military Aide,” among other items.
According to the list, five more empty files with categorized banners were discovered in the storage area. A determination could not be made whether the files initially stored in folders marked as classified were found elsewhere during the search or if they could be accounted for in any other way.