Trump Lawyers Questioned By FBI Over Top-Secret Document Theft

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The FBI wants to know more about the boxes that the ex-president took out of the White House and kept at his home, the Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Palm Beach, Florida. White House Counsel Patrick Cipollone and his Deputy Pat Philbin are the top people in Donald Trump’s administration whom the Department of Justice (DOJ) has interviewed thus far.

Both Philbin and Cipollone were Trump’s designees tasked with interfacing with the National Archives. The former president gave them the responsibility right before he left office in January 2021. Trump’s pattern has been to set up people to take the fall for him.

Only eight people have been interviewed by the FBI in this criminal investigation since the grand jury was formed. A staff secretary at the Trump White House, Derek Lyons, was also interviewed, according to The New York Times.

NBC contributor and former U.S. attorney Chuck Rosenberg resigned as a matter of principle under the Donald Trump administration. He said this of Philbin on MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson Reports show:

‘He’s brilliant, honest, and scrupulously careful.’

The FBI interviewed Philbin last spring, during the investigation into how the first 15 boxes of highly classified documents were retrieved from Mar-a-Lago. At this time, it is unknown when Cipollone talked to the FBI.

When the National Archives representatives discovered that the ex-POTUS documents were missing, they reached out to Philbin to assist them in the records’ return. The Presidential Records Act designates that those documents were archived.

Philbin worked with the National Archives to get the documents. Unfortunately, Trump refused. More than one of Trump’s former advisors heard him say this about the documents:

‘It’s not theirs, it’s mine.’

Last January Trump finally manages to pry his fingers from the first 15 boxes, but only after the DOJ sent him a subpoena requesting all the documents at Mar-a-Lago.

That was when the DOJ’s counterintelligence officials went to the golf resort to get the classified documents. As they left, a Trump attorney signed for them noting that any materials with a classified marking had been returned.

As it turned out, those same officials used a subpoena to get surveillance footage for the storage room hallway. That footage distressed them. An earlier New York Times article reported that the surveillance footage the Department of Justice retrieved showed additional boxes were moved from Mar-a-Lago after the DOJ officials left. An informant also told them that there were additional boxes still at Mar-a-Lago.

Since Lyon left the administration on December 18, 2020, he was not aware of how those boxes managed to make their way to the president’s semi-private residence. However, he was aware of how Trump dealt with presidential documents, which could range from top secret to a cocktail napkin where he jotted down a note.

In addition, the FBI contacted a small group who now works for the former president in case they might know whether Trump still had other documents squirreled away.

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So far, the FBI retained “11 sets of classified documents from its search, including some materials marked as ‘top secret/SCI.'” That designation meant the materials reached the highest levels of Top Secret, according to CNN.

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The federal magistrate judge who approved the search warrant will have a hearing Thursday to decide whether to unseal the FBI’s “probable cause affidavit.” Trump wants it unsealed, but the DOJ does not given the ongoing investigation.

Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.


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