It’s now official. When President Donald Trump left the White House last year he improperly took some classified material with him to his home in Florida, the National Archives confirmed. At least some of those documents were clearly marked as classified, with some documents at the “top secret” level, the Washington Post had reported earlier. Although it’s unclear exactly how many classified documents were in the 15 boxes that the National Archives retrieved from Trump last month, at least some of them could not have been mistaken for anything else considering they were clearly marked as being extremely sensitive. The Archives said it had informed the Department of Justice.
“NARA has identified items marked as classified national security information within the boxes,” David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States, said in a letter to Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House of Representatives oversight committee, which had been looking at the way that the former president handled records. “These new revelations deepen my concern about former President Trump’s flagrant disregard for federal records laws and the potential impact on our historical record,” Maloney said in a statement. Ferriero also noted the Trump White House didn’t turn over documents that included “certain social media records.” It seems the White House didn’t take “any steps to capture deleted content from any Trump Administration social media account other than @realDonaldTrump or @POTUS.” And the Archives so far hasn’t been able to find any of the messages the Trump White House sent through Snapchat.
The first official confirmation that classified documents were in boxes in the former president’s home increases pressure for Trump and maybe some staffers to face legal consequences. But it’s still unclear whether there will be a full-blown investigation into the matter as it would not be an easy matter to prosecute. In order to file criminal charges, prosecutors would have to prove the material was intentionally mishandled or that Trump or a staffer was grossly negligent when handling the documents. Plus, Trump would have had the power as president to declassify material so any case against him would be even more difficult.
Many Democrats have seized on these questions of how Trump dealt with classified information as president to characterize him as a hypocrite considering how he often attacked Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign for what he claimed was a mishandling of national security information. Ferriero told lawmakers that some staffers in Trump’s White House “conducted official business using nonofficial electronic messaging accounts that were not copied or forwarded into their official electronic messaging accounts.”
Trump pushed back against the way the Archives news was being characterized. “The National Archives did not ‘find’ anything, they were given, upon request, presidential records in an ordinary and routine process to ensure the preservation of my legacy and in accordance with the Presidential Records Act,” Trump said in a statement. “If this was anyone but ‘Trump,’ there would be no story here.” The former president added that journalists were making it seem like he was “working in a filing room” rather than running the country.