WASHINGTON: Former US President Donald Trump's problems are piling up as his team seems to be losing the grip as new disclosures reveal he took 300 documents from the White House. His lawyers are deserting him and he's having tough time at the primaries when blue states recently turned in non-Trump candidates in the run-up to the midterms.
Trump is reportedly having a hard time retaining the "best people" to represent him as he faces multiple lawsuits and a federal investigation, but the latest move from Trump left everyone wondering if his team is even awake at the wheel, media reports said.
On Monday night, one of Trump's official representatives for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) released a May 10 letter that legal experts say is incredibly damning. Conservative journalist John Solomon posted the document on his website, JustTheNews.com.
The letter was sent to Trump's lawyers by NARA, and confirms that the former president took highly classified materials with him to Mar-a-Lago. "As you are no doubt aware, NARA had ongoing communications with the former President's representatives throughout 2021 about what appeared to be missing Presidential records, which resulted in the transfer of 15 boxes of records to NARA in January 2022," the letter reads.
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.
NARA informed the Department of Justice about that discovery, which prompted it to ask the President to request that NARA provide the FBI with access to the boxes at issue so that those in the Intelligence Community could examine them.
The former President had more than 300 classified documents at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, that have since been recovered by the federal government, New York Times has reported.
The figures represent three batches of documents that federal officials have recovered in recent months. About 150 documents marked classified were handed over to the National Archives in January, a large number that prompted concern from officials there that Trump may have had additional sensitive material in the bowels of the resort.
Trump reportedly went through those boxes himself late 2021 before they were turned over. Officials at the Justice Department later went to the Florida estate in June with a subpoena for any additional classified material. But reviews of security footage and information from interviews with Trump's aides led them to believe there were even more documents that hadn't been turned over.
The Times added former White House officials were tasked with trying to return the documents to the federal government, but Trump resisted, calling the boxes: "Mine." The FBI, armed with a search warrant, went to Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 and recovered 11 more sets of classified material. A federal judge unsealed the warrant shortly afterward, which shows Trump was under investigation for possible violations of the Espionage Act.
The Times, the first to report the number of sensitive material found during the searches, added it's unclear what type of classified information officials found. But the paper, citing a person briefed on the investigation, said they included material from the CIA, the National Security Agency and the FBI on topics related to national security.
It's unclear if Trump could face any charges related to the documents. The Presidential Records Act requires all official government material be turned over to the National Archives at the end of a term. The archives knew, in part, that it was missing documents that had been widely reported in the media, including Trump's "love letters" with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, The HuffPost said. .
The Times' report comes amid the ongoing firestorm after FBI agents searched Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort earlier this month. Trump has castigated the search, declaring the FBI's actions a politicisation of the Justice Department that has never happened to a former president. His aides quickly moved to say he had a "standing order" to automatically declassify documents that left the Oval Office for his estate, although there is no evidence so far to back up that claim.
The DOJ's investigation into the documents is ongoing, as are several other government inquiries into Trump's behaviour leading up to the Jan 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol and his efforts to remain in power.
Lawyers for Trump on Monday urged a federal judge to prevent the FBI from continuing to review documents recovered from his Florida estate earlier this month until a neutral special master can be appointed. The attorneys asserted in a court filing, their first since the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago two weeks ago, that the sets of documents taken from the residence were "presumptively" covered by executive privilege.
Separately Monday, a federal judge acknowledged that redactions to an FBI affidavit spelling out the basis for the search might be so extensive as to make the document "meaningless" if released to the public. But he said he continued to believe it should not remain sealed in its entirety because of the "intense" public interest in the investigation, a written order from US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart said.
"Particularly given the intense public and historical interest in an unprecedented search of a former President's residence, the Government has not yet shown that these administrative concerns are sufficient to justify sealing," he wrote.
Trump legal woes are 'Dampening Republican Enthusiasm':
The GOP strategist Larl Roe said that Trump should spend some of his $120 million war chest to help the stumbling Republican Senate candidates he endorsed. Long-time Republican strategist Rove said Monday that former President Donald Trump's ongoing legal problems are "dampening Republican enthusiasm" as the nation heads toward the midterm elections.
"The more we talk about the boxes of material at Mar-a-Lago the FBI seized earlier this month and the less that we talk about the problems that we face as a country here and now, the better off the Democrats are," Rove told Fox News. "It raises their enthusiasm; dampens the Republican enthusiasm". He didn't comment on what might happen if Trump declares before the midterms that he's going to make another run for the presidency.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shared tempered expectations last week that Republicans would retake the Senate. McConnell didn't specify which candidates lacked "quality" when he made his comments. But several controversial GOP Senate candidates with little or no political experience, championed by Trump, are stumbling in the polls. Those include Mehmet Oz, running against Democratic Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman; Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance (opposed by Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan) and former football star Herschel Walker, who's running in Georgia for the US Senate against incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock.