The US National Archives recovered hundreds of pages of classified material from Mar-a-Lago months before the FBI raid in August.
A federal records agency in the United States retrieved about 100 documents with classified markings, totalling more than 700 pages, from former US President Donald Trump’s Florida estate earlier this year, according to newly public government correspondence.
A letter sent in May from the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to Trump’s legal team reveals new information about the trove of classified material the former president held at his home at Mar-a-Lago. In those boxes, NARA had identified items marked as classified at the top-secret level as well as information about special access programmes, the letter said.
The FBI recovered an additional 11 sets of classified documents when it searched the premises on August 8.
“As you are no doubt aware, NARA had ongoing communications with the former President’s representatives throughout 2021 about what appeared to be missing Presidential records, which resulted in the transfer of 15 boxes of records to NARA in January 2022,” said the letter, posted online by the agency.
The revelation comes as Trump is in the spotlight for potentially mishandling classified documents, and keeping sensitive information at his Florida home after his term in office had ended. The August search by the FBI set off a firestorm of opposition from the Republican Party, which has become increasingly critical of efforts to bring attention to Trump’s alleged wrongdoings.
In the May 10 letter, NARA Acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall told a lawyer for Trump, Evan Corcoran, that the administration of US President Joe Biden would not consider the former president’s claims of executive privilege over the documents.
The letter states that the Department of Justice found “no precedent for an assertion of executive privilege by a former President against an incumbent President to prevent the latter” from obtaining records that belong to the federal government and are needed for government functions.
The letter was made public on Tuesday on the NARA website after it was posted on a website connected to conservative writer and Trump ally John Solomon on Monday night.
NARA also states in the letter that it had informed the Justice Department about its discovery of the classified documents.
“NARA informed the Department of Justice about that discovery, which prompted the Department to ask the President to request that NARA provide the FBI with access to the boxes at issue so that the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community could examine them,” reads the letter.
That letter came months before the FBI’s raid on Mar-a-Lago earlier this month.
Trump’s lawyers have asked a federal judge to prevent the FBI from continuing to review documents recovered from that raid until a neutral “special master” is appointed to inspect the records.
A Justice Department spokesman said prosecutors would file their response in court. “The August 8 search warrant at Mar-a-Lago was authorised by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause,” spokesman Anthony Coley said.