Last week, former President Donald Trump claimed all the Department of Justice had to do was “ask” for the classified documents, and other items the FBI confiscated a week ago Monday, and he would have returned them.
Multiple aides, however, have now quoted him saying those items belonged to him. Trump took to social media following the search at his Mar-a-Lago residence, and accused his predecessor Barack Obama of “keeping 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified.”
Trump’s attempts to deflect his ongoing legal scrutiny onto Obama are now being coupled with growing complaints about his handling of classified documents at the end of his term and the months since by members of his own inner circle. New reporting from the New York Times on Tuesday revealed one of Trump’s representatives to the National Archives, Patrick F. Philbin, was interviewed by the FBI “in connection with boxes of sensitive documents that were stored at Mr. Trump’s residence in Florida after he left office.”
When the Archives discovered it was missing items, including the highly classified documents, it reached out to Philbin.
“Mr. Philbin tried to help the National Archives retrieve the material, two of the people familiar with the discussions" reportedly told the Times. "But the former president repeatedly resisted entreaties from his advisers."
"‘It’s not theirs, it’s mine,’ several advisers say Mr. Trump told them…They also received information from at least one witness who indicated that more material might remain at the residence.”
Under U.S. law, White House records belong to the government, not the president. Despite the Archives retrieving 15 cartons of documents in January, they wanted more items returned. In May, Trump was sent a subpoena. In June, a Trump lawyer signed a statement saying there were no classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.
Two months later, on August 8, the FBI executed the search warrant that reportedly secured 11 sets of classified documents, including — according to the Washington Post — material about nuclear weapons.
Trump has not responded to the new accusations that he previously claimed the White House documents belonged to him. But in a post on Truth Social, his social media platform, he asserted, “Number one, it was all declassified. Number two, they didn’t need to ‘seize’ anything."
"They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago," he added. "It was in secured storage, with an additional lock put on as per their request. They could have had it anytime they wanted—and that includes LONG ago, ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS ASK.”
His post contained myriad inaccuracies. Sources continue to come forward to share details of how he may have knowingly mishandled top secret documents.
Obama, Trump's predecessor, is working with the National Archives and Records Administration to complete his Presidential Library.