A new report from The New York Times states that Justice Department personnel subpoenaed and obtained surveillance footage from Donald Trump’s southern Florida property known as Mar-a-Lago with troubling results.
The footage, handed over in the time before the recent raid by the FBI of the property, showed boxes getting moved into and out of a storage area that housed government records following an instance in which the Justice Department was in communication with Trump’s team. The footage originally demanded by the Justice Department covered a 60-day period, although the Times doesn’t specify the beginning and end points. “That activity prompted concern among investigators about the handling of the material,” the Times adds, discussing what the footage showed.
Taylor Budowich, a spokesperson for Trump, offered predictable push-back. “If there was actual concern, the D.O.J. could have asked, just like they had previously, and they would have, again, received full cooperation,” he said. Reports indicate the Department of Justice didn’t receive “full cooperation” from the Trump team. The same report from the Times says a signed statement with at least one Trump lawyer affixing their name was provided to federal authorities in the aftermath of a June gathering at the Trump property with high-ranking Justice officials. The statement insisted all materials marked as classified from that storage area were returned.
Continuing concerns sparked the raid. The precise location at Mar-a-Lago in which each item recovered by the Justice Department was found wasn’t specified in an official listing of what agents seized, but classified documents were recovered, as was top secret information meant only for viewing within a particular variety of secure government facility. These details suggest the signed statement constituted deception and potentially explain the inclusion of a law against obstruction in a list of potential criminal violations providing the foundation for the warrant. Two other laws were referenced, including the Espionage Act, which covers espionage and actions that could undercut national security, and a law broadly prohibiting meddling with certain documents.
The obstruction law specifically covers anyone who “knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object” intending to affect the course of a government investigation, alongside other provisions. It seems to carry a potential prison sentence of up to 20 years. As for the surveillance tapes from Mar-a-Lago, the Justice Department reportedly subpoenaed the footage after the early June gathering at Mar-a-Lago where high-ranking Justice Department officials including one working in counterintelligence efforts met with lawyers for Trump including Christina Bobb and Evan Corcoran. During those interactions, the Justice Department officials were shown the storage area at issue, where the Justice Department was allowing additional, unclassified records to remain after obtaining classified items during the visit alongside that subsequent signed statement.
Trump stopped by while officials visited in June. Trump’s excuses are varying for the fact items marked classified also evidently remained at Mar-a-Lago. He (falsely) claimed former President Barack Obama took tens of millions of administration records, and he suggested FBI agents could’ve planted evidence. He also alleged through a spokesperson’s statement he issued a standing order for the declassification of records taken to his residence — a claim for which tangible evidence has yet to emerge, it seems.