Trump employees at Mar-a-Lago in Florida moved boxes of papers the day before a visit by FBI agents looking into the former president’s retention of classified documents, the Washington Post reported, citing sources familiar with the federal investigation in which indictments are said to be close.
The Post also said Trump and aides “also allegedly carried out a ‘dress rehearsal’ for moving sensitive papers even before his office received the May 2022 subpoena” demanding surrender of records removed from the White House.
In a third remarkable development, the Post said prosecutors had also gathered evidence that Trump “at times kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others”.
Trump denies wrongdoing over his treatment of classified documents, at one point even claiming, wrongly, that as president he was able to declassify anything “even by thinking about it”.
“If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified,” Trump told the Fox News host Sean Hannity in September last year.
“You’re the president – you make that decision.”
Joe Biden is now president – and faces his own classified documents investigation. Attempting to regain the office, Trump faces unprecedented legal problems.
The clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination faces trial on 34 criminal counts related to his hush-money payment to a porn star; was found liable for sexual abuse and defamation in a case brought by a writer who alleged rape; faces state and federal investigations of his election subversion; is the subject of the classified records investigation; and faces a New York state civil suit over his business practices.
He denies all wrongdoing and claims to be the victim of political persecution – a stance that has propelled him to a 30-points-plus lead in primary polling.
In the classified documents case, the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago on 8 August last year, a move Trump was quick to call a raid ordered by enemies in Washington.
On Thursday, responding to the Post, a Trump spokesperson, Steven Cheung, claimed prosecutors “harassed anyone and everyone” who works for or supports Trump, claimed Trump offered to co-operate before the FBI search, and said: “Just like all the other fake hoaxes thrown at President Trump, this corrupt effort will also fail.”
A lawyer for one of the workers who moved the boxes told the Post the unidentified man did not know what was in them and was simply helping.
The case is overseen by Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by the US attorney general, Merrick Garland. Smith is also investigating Trump’s election subversion and incitement of the deadly January 6 attack on Congress.