The Biden administration authorized the FBI to scrutinize 15 boxes containing classified information that the National Archives retrieved from Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, a newly published letter reveals.
The revelation in a May 10 missive by Acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall to Trump attorney Evan Corcoran — published late Monday by JustTheNews — details how Biden escalated the investigation of his predecessor for allegedly mishandling secret government information.
According to Wall’s letter, the White House counsel’s office initially asked the National Archives on April 11 to “provide the FBI access to the 15 boxes for its review within seven days.”
In response, according to Wall, Trump’s legal team sought to delay the disclosure until April 29.
On that date, JustTheNews reported, Corcoran wrote to National Archives general counsel Gary Stern requesting the handover be further delayed “until we have had the opportunity to review the documents and to consult with President Donald J. Trump so that he may personally make any decision to assert a claim of constitutionally based privilege.”
In the May 10 letter, Wall rejected that claim, writing that Supreme Court precedent “strongly suggests that a former President may not successfully assert executive privilege ‘against the very Executive Branch in whose name the privilege is invoked.’”
Wall added that the Justice Department “has advised me that there is no precedent for an assertion of executive privilege by a former President against an incumbent President to prevent the latter from obtaining … Presidential records belonging to the Federal Government where ‘such records contain information that is needed for the conduct of current business of the incumbent President’s office and that is not otherwise available.’”
“I have therefore decided not to honor the former President’s ‘protective’ claim of privilege,” Wall wrote, after making clear that her letter bore Biden’s imprimatur: “The Counsel to the President has informed me that, in light of the particular circumstances presented here, President Biden defers to my determination … regarding whether or not I should uphold the former President’s purported ‘protective assertion of executive privilege.’”
“For the same reasons, I have concluded that there is no reason to grant your request for a further delay before the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community begin their reviews,” she told Corcoran. “Accordingly, [the Archives] will provide the FBI access to the records in question, as requested by the incumbent President, beginning as early as Thursday, May 12, 2022.”
The National Archives and White House did not immediately respond to The Post’s inquiry seeking clarification as to whether Biden signed off on the initial April 11 note from the White House counsel’s office.
Wall’s letter also reveals that the Archives and the DOJ were concerned about the amount of classified material found in the boxes returned in January.
The archivist indicated that more than 700 pages from 100 documents bore “classification markings,” including some “up to the level of Top Secret and including Sensitive Compartmented Information and Special Access Program materials.”
“’Access to the materials is not only necessary for purposes of our ongoing criminal investigation, but the Executive Branch must also conduct an assessment of the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials were stored and transported and take any necessary remedial steps,’” Wall quoted the DOJ’s National Security Division as saying. “’Accordingly, we are seeking immediate access to these materials so as to facilitate the necessary assessments that need to be conducted within the Executive Branch.’”
The day after Wall’s letter, May 11, a grand jury issued a subpoena for documents bearing classification markings that were still held by Trump. On June 3, DOJ and FBI officials arrived at Mar-a-Lago to retrieve responsive documents from Trump’s attorneys.
However, officials were led to believe the former president was storing still more classified materials, leading to US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart issuing a search warrant for Trump’s estate Aug. 5.
FBI agents raided Mar-a-Lago three days later, seizing 27 boxes of materials, including 11 sets of classified documents that were labeled top secret, secret, or confidential, according to an inventory list later made public by Reinhart.
The Biden administration has insisted the president was unaware of the Mar-a-Lago raid until it happened.
“He learned about it, really, like all of us did. I’m sure maybe someone on his team flagged it for him, but he was not aware,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Aug. 9.
“What I can tell you definitively and for sure: He was not aware of this. He was — we were — nobody in the White House was. We were not given a heads-up, and we did not know about — about what happened yesterday,” she added.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has since revealed that he signed off on the search personally.
Trump has repeatedly blasted the FBI’s investigation, and filed a motion Monday to stop investigators from going through the seized documents.
“We are now demanding that the Department of ‘Justice’ be instructed to immediately STOP the review of documents illegally seized from my home. ALL documents have been previously declassified,” the former president said soon after the motion was filed.
“The White House stated strongly that they were NOT INVOLVED, and knew absolutely nothing about, the political Witch Hunt going on with me, & that they didn’t know anything at all about the Break-In of Mar-a-Lago,” Trump said in a Truth Social post following the publication of Wall’s letter.
“This was strongly reiterated again & again. WRONG! Remember, these are the people who spied on my campaign, denied it, & got caught. Through the great reporting of John Solomon (Fake Pulitzer Prize?), documents reveal they knew everything, in fact led the charge – a political NO, NO!”