WASHINGTON (AP) — Classified information was found in the 15 boxes of White House records that were stored at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, the National Archives and Records Administration said in a letter that confirmed the matter has been sent to the Justice Department.
The Friday letter from the agency follows numerous reports around Trump’s handling of sensitive and even classified information during his time as president and after he left the White House. The revelation could also interest federal investigators responsible for policing the handling of government secrets, though the Justice Department and FBI have not indicated they will pursue.
Federal law bars the removal of classified documents to unauthorized locations, though it is possible that Trump could try to argue that, as president, he was the ultimate declassification authority.
No matter the legal risk, it exposes him to charges of hypocrisy given his relentless attacks during the 2016 presidential campaign on Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server as secretary of state. The FBI investigated but ultimately did not recommend charges.
Trump recently denied reports about his administration’s tenuous relationship with the National Archives and his lawyers said that “they are continuing to search for additional presidential records that belong to the National Archives.”
In a statement Friday night, Trump said, “The National Archives did not ‘find’ anything, they were given, upon request, Presidential Records in an ordinary and routine process.”
“If this was anyone but ‘Trump,’ there would be no story here,” he said.
The letter from the archivists in response to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which is investigating, also details how certain social media records were not captured and preserved by the Trump administration. And it also says that the agency learned that White House staff frequently conducted official business using unofficial messaging accounts and personal phones.