Prosecutors Investigating Whether Trump Staff Had ‘Dress Rehearsal’ to Hide Boxes of Mar-a-Lago Documents From Feds

Mar a Lago

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

New questions have come up about Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents after a report that employees repeatedly moved sensitive papers around Mar-a-Lago ahead of their confiscation by the FBI.

As Jack Smith’s continues his special counsel investigation into the documents scandal, Trump’s intent in improperly keeping classified material at his estate has been a subject of scrutiny following a Washington Post report that boxes of documents were moved out of storage at the former president’s direction.

On Thursday, the Post expanded upon its earlier reporting with a new article stating that Trump’s staff moved documents around repeatedly up until the day before the FBI executed its subpoena. The documents, which Trump and his team resisted turning over to the National Archives, were eventually retrieved.

From the report:

Prosecutors also have gathered evidence that even before Trump’s office received the subpoena in May, he had what some officials have dubbed a “dress rehearsal” for moving government documents that he did not want to relinquish, people familiar with the investigation said.

The term “dress rehearsal” was used in a sealed judicial opinion issued earlier this year in one of several legal battles over the government’s access to particular witnesses and evidence, some of the people said. It was used to describe an episode when Trump allegedly reviewed the contents of some, but not all, of the boxes containing classified material, these people said.

At the time, Trump and his legal team were engaged in a back-and-forth with the National Archives and Records Administration over whether he had taken from the White House records and property that were supposed to stay with the government. That dispute over presidential records is what ultimately led to the discovery of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago — some of them highly sensitive, including information about a foreign country’s nuclear capabilities; Iran’s missile system; and intelligence gathering aimed at China.

The report cites previous reporting that when Justice Department lawyer Jay Bratt and FBI agents carried out the Mar-a-Lago search, they “developed evidence that ‘obstructive conduct’ took place in connection with the response to the subpoena, including that documents ‘were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room.'”

Between this and witness testimony that Trump kept classified documents out to show them off, investigators are attempting to determine if Trump should be charged with obstruction of justice or mishandling national security secrets.

“That dress rehearsal episode is one of several instances in which investigators see possible ulterior motives in the actions of Trump and those around him,” The Post reports. “Lawyers for Trump and some of those witnesses, however, have argued in recent months that prosecutors are viewing the sequence of events in too suspicious a light. They say Smith’s team has unfairly dismissed claims that people were not trying to hide anything from the government but simply were carrying out what they considered to be routine and innocent tasks of serving their boss.”

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