A conservative journalist posted a letter online between the NARA and a Donald Trump lawyer.
The journalist pointed to the arms-length involvement of President Joe Biden.
It also showed the extent of classified information Trump took with him on leaving office.
An ally of former President Donald Trump triumphantly published a letter to Trump about his storage of government secrets at Mar-a-Lago on Monday.
John Solomon, a conservative journalist with links to Trump, highlighted the letter for showing the arms-length involvement of President Joe Biden in the investigation that later led to the raid at Trump’s home.
But the document also revealed the previously-unknown scale of secret information contained in documents there, and how damaging officials thought it was to national security.
Legal experts were quick to say this was the more serious revelation, and that Solomon’s publication of the letter backfired.
The May 10 letter was from the National Archivist, a senior official at the agency that handles presidential records. Solomon was one of Trump’s authorized liaisons to the National Archives.
It was addressed from National Archivist Debra Wall to Trump’s attorney, Evan Corcoran, and discussed 15 boxes of materials Trump’s handed over in January, which it says contained 700 pages of classified material.
“In its initial review of materials within those boxes, NARA identified items marked as classified national security information, up to the level of Top Secret and including Sensitive Compartmented Information and Special Access Program materials,” Wall wrote.
These are three of the highest levels of classification. It prompted an internal assessment of “of the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials were stored and transported,” Wall said.
Trump has consistently downplayed the danger of him keeping such documents at Mar-a-Lago, while US officials have said that is was a key rationale for getting them back.
Also discussed in the letter was whether the FBI was even allowed to access the documents, since Trump’s legal team asserted they were covered by executive privilege — a legal concept shielding some records from scrutiny.
Wall said she needed to ask Biden to make a call on whether the FBI could access the files; a call he delegated to her and to the DOJ. They decided the FBI could read them, the letter said.
Solomon presented the information as proof that “Biden White House was involved” at the start of the probe, but skirted over the details of the classified information.
Bradley P. Moss, a national security attorney, said that publication of the letter had backfired.
“Does @jsolomonReports realize how bad that letter is for Trump?” he asked.
“Trump not only had classified records at Mar-a-Lago, not only had TS/SCI classified records, he had Special Access Program classified information. Those are our most sensitive secrets. They were sitting in a damn basement.”
University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck described the release “as both a self-inflicted wound and further proof of how the government has been playing by the rules.”
The letter is about a separate trove of documents to those recovered in the August 8 raid on Mar-a-Lago, which stayed in Trump’s hands months longer and, per legal documents after the search, also included highly classified material.
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