Merrick Garland Goes After Additional Mar-a-Lago Security Footage


The Justice Department investigation into the handling of government records from the Trump administration is continuing.

Now, per the The New York Times, federal investigators are seeking additional security footage from Trump’s southern Florida property known as Mar-a-Lago, where FBI agents recently conducted a search and found classified documents in a storage area where authorities were previously told no such materials remained. The footage investigators are now after covers the weeks before FBI agents raided the property on August 8. Before the search, Justice Department personnel already obtained earlier security footage from Mar-a-Lago, showing areas including a hall outside the storage area where government documents were kept. The earlier footage was obtained after a June 22 subpoena. It depicted, among other points of concern, people seemingly changing what containers held certain documents.

Obtaining the footage could let investigators have some insight into who may have accessed the highly sensitive materials recovered from Mar-a-Lago since Trump left office. In all, investigators have reclaimed over 300 classified documents from Trump following his presidency, including materials at the highest security levels in the U.S. government. Such materials include Special Access Program documents and sensitive compartmented information. The disclosure of some of what Trump held may have — potentially — threatened the lives of intelligence sources, considering its highly restricted nature. Sensitive compartmented information is meant only for usage in a specific kind of secure government facility. Such a facility was constructed at Mar-a-Lago. Although the current status of that set-up on the property isn’t immediately clear, the documents evidently weren’t there. Agents found materials during the raid in the storage area and a closet in Trump’s office, per the Times.

The specific contents of the documents reclaimed from Trump aren’t immediately available, although the Times says an initial set of 15 boxes obtained by the National Archives in January — after months of communications with the Trump team — included documents from the FBI, CIA, and NSA. More than 150 classified documents stretching across over 700 pages were included in those 15 boxes, according to available information from the Times and a May letter from the head of the National Archives to a lawyer for Trump. The Times noted Monday that “the extent to which such a large number of highly sensitive documents remained at Mar-a-Lago for months, even as the department sought the return of all material that should have been left in government custody when Mr. Trump left office, suggested to officials that the former president or his aides had been cavalier in handling it, not fully forthcoming with investigators, or both.”

The Archives recovering all those classified materials preceded the Justice Department probe. There’s no indication Trump was as comprehensively forthcoming with federal investigators as his side insists. Another noteworthy detail in the report issued this Monday from the Times is that Trump reportedly personally “went through” the 15 boxes obtained by the Archives in January, which suggests he may have been personally responsible for excluding particular documents from what was handed over. Three specific federal laws were cited in warrant materials in a list of potential violations, and one — a law broadly against meddling with documents, including via false statements, for the purpose of obstructing a government probe — apparently comes with a possibility of up to 20 years in prison if guilty. They don’t take obstruction lightly.