National Archives officials were reportedly led to believe a year ago that former President Donald Trump had taken nothing but “news clippings” with him back to Mar-a-Lago, according to a report from The Washington Post.
However, Trump was found this year to have brought top-secret classified materials to his Florida resort, where they were kept in a lightly secured storage room ― a fact that has raised significant national security concerns.
Citing unnamed people familiar with the conversations, the Post said that the misleading information had come from Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, who relayed it to Pat Philbin, the former deputy White House counsel.
Philbin then passed on the claim to officials from the National Archives during a September 2021 phone call, according to the Post. He reportedly said that Trump’s team was not aware of any materials taken from the White House beyond 12 boxes of news stories.
A spokesman for Meadows told the Post that he had not personally reviewed the materials but was rather relaying information given to him.
After a president leaves office, all records and documentation become the legal property of the National Archives under a law enacted in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
The Archives began to suspect that some records were missing from Trump’s presidency not long after he decamped to Mar-a-Lago. Negotiations between Trump’s team and the National Archives, however, only led to a partial recovery of documents until the FBI conducted a search on Trump’s property in August to collect what they believed to be the remainder.
The Justice Department is currently investigating Trump’s improper handling of the documents, but the effort has been slowed by a lawsuit from Trump.