A new report from The Guardian raises the possibility of a federal counterintelligence investigation dealing with the handling of government documents taken to Mar-a-Lago after the property, a Trump-owned location where he’s largely resided since leaving office, was searched on Monday.
The FBI raid was connected to a Justice Department investigation into what was done with an array of records from the Trump administration that federal law required be provided to U.S. authorities responsible for record-keeping — not taken to Mar-a-Lago. The National Archives previously recovered 15 boxes of Trump records that were at the Trump property, which is in southern Florida, and FBI agents took some ten more boxes from Mar-a-Lago on Monday. After the National Archives found what it said were classified materials in the earlier cache of records, the agency referred the matter to the Justice Department, where a grand jury investigation was opened. The possibility of a counterintelligence probe is in connection to potentially serious questions about who might have accessed the documents at issue while they were stored at Mar-a-Lago.
Initially, a basement storage facility on the Trump-owned premises that was used for at least some of the documents held at the property evidently wasn’t even locked. An early June letter from the Justice Department to two lawyers representing the former president asked for the placement of a lock on that basement storage location, seemingly implying one wasn’t already there. The Guardian reports those two Trump lawyers complied. It’s unclear whether additional classified materials were recovered from Mar-a-Lago on Monday, but it’s already known such records were evidently improperly there at a previous point, and the entirety of what might have been done with them wasn’t clear.
“The improper handling of classified materials raised the additional prospect that the FBI might have sufficient basis to open a counterintelligence investigation, amid concerns that the records could have been accessed by individuals not authorized to view secret documents,” as reported in The Guardian. There’s another readily available piece of evidence for federal concerns along these lines: Jay Bratt, who’s the Chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES) of the National Security Division within the U.S. Justice Department, was among four Justice Department officials who headed to Mar-a-Lago in early June for in-person discussions about the improper transfer of documents out of D.C.
There were evidently continuing concerns about the potentially improper retention of federal documents at Mar-a-Lago, and one of the main points of the search on Monday was seeking additional records potentially at the Trump property. A revelation from a source for The Guardian indicates apparent concerns that classified documents might’ve remained at the Trump resort. An attachment to the warrant behind the search indicated targets included classified materials alongside items generally covered by the Presidential Records Act, a key piece of federal law dealing with the preservation of federal records. Trump’s office and his personal residence area at Mar-a-Lago were among the areas FBI agents searched there. Discussions with lawyers for Trump left Justice Department personnel suspecting that records they sought were in Trump’s residence, as The Guardian explained it.