[Update] Analysis of NARA’s Letter to Former President Trump
Why would the Trump team release a document that casts them in such a bad light?
Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the initial collection of documents turned over from Mar-A-Lago to the National Archives this past January contained more than 150 documents marked classified. The Times went on the report that combined with a second collection of materials that the former President’s aides provided in June and the collection of documents seized during the execution of the FBI warrant early this month the government has recovered over 300 documents marked classified from Trump this year. Then, late last night, Trump ally John Solomon published a copy of a National Archive letter sent to the former President in May regarding providing the Department of Justice with access to those the classified documents they had recovered to date. The letter, available through Solomon’s website, is relatively brief and accessibly written. I encourage folks to at least scan it before continuing to my analysis and commentary.
Ok, “spoilers” start here…
#1. The letter is focused on a request by the DoJ to turn over the documents and the question of executive privilege as it applies to former Presidents. We start to see the beginning of forming that argument in the second paragraph:
“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 the Department to ask the President to request that NARA provide the FBI with access to the boxes at issue so that the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community could examine them. On April 11, 2022, the White House Counsel’s Office—affirming a request from the Department of Justice supported by an FBI letterhead memorandum—formally transmitted a request that NARA provide the FBI access to the 15 boxes for its review within seven days, with the possibility that the FBI might request copies of specific documents following its review of the boxes.”https://justthenews.com/government/courts-law/full-text-national-archives-letter-trump-classified-documents
A few paragraphs later, the Acting Archivist of the United States, Debra Steidel Wall, then summarizes the Trump team’s position on why the documents should not be shared due to executive privilege:
[Trump legal representatives’] April 29 letter asks for additional time for you to review the materials in the boxes “in order to ascertain whether any specific document is subject to privilege,” and then to consult with the former President “so that he may personally make any decision to assert a claim of constitutionally based privilege.” Your April 29 letter further states that in the event we do not afford you further time to review the records before NARA discloses them in response to the request, we should consider your letter to be “a protective assertion of executive privilege made by counsel for the former President.”https://justthenews.com/government/courts-law/full-text-national-archives-letter-trump-classified-documents
#2. The letter carefully documents every major action that has been taken by the Archives since the initial DoJ request and provides the accompanying statutory or legal basis for why that action is being taken. In this respect, its an incredible example of government transparency done well. Take for example, the third paragraph that explains the underlying protections for the documents of Former Presidents and, more importantly, why they don’t apply in this case.
Although the Presidential Records Act (PRA) generally restricts access to Presidential records in NARA’s custody for several years after the conclusion of a President’s tenure in office, the statute further provides that, “subject to any rights, defenses, or privileges which the United States or any agency or person may invoke,” such records “shall be made available . . . to an incumbent President if 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.” 44 U.S.C. §https://justthenews.com/government/courts-law/full-text-national-archives-letter-trump-classified-documents
Reading between the lines, the Archives recognizes how important and unprecedented this situation is and, accordingly, is ensuring that every “i” is transparently dotted and every “t’s” cross is clearly documented. This is, without a doubt, a good thing and flies in the face of the idea that this was part of some thrown-together rogue local effort to get a former President. In fact, the letter details how the President has been kept in the loop during this process, and “in light of the particular circumstances presented here, President Biden defers to my determination, in consultation with the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel” (though I am sure Trump supporters will find this objectionable for… reasons).
#3. The letter’s timeline demonstrates how much leeway was given to former President Trump in order to make his case.
We advised you in writing on April 12 that, “in light of the urgency of this request,” we planned to “provid[e] access to the FBI next week,” i.e., the week of April 18. See Exec. Order No. 13,489, § 2(b), 74 Fed. Reg. 4,669 (Jan. 21, 2009) (providing a 30-day default before disclosure but authorizing the Archivist to specify “a shorter period of time” if “required under the circumstances”); accord 36 C.F.R. § 1270.44(g) (“The Archivist may adjust any time period or deadline under this subpart, as appropriate, to accommodate records requested under this section.”). In response to a request from another representative of the former President, the White House Counsel’s Office acquiesced in an extension of the production date to April 29, and so advised NARA. In accord with that agreement, we had not yet provided the FBI with access to the records when we received your letter on April 29, and we have continued to refrain from providing such access to date.
It has now been four weeks since we first informed you of our intent to provide the FBI access to the boxes so that it and others in the Intelligence Community can conduct their reviews. Notwithstanding the urgency conveyed by the Department of Justice and the reasonable extension afforded to the former President, your April 29 letter asks for additional time for you to review the materials in the boxes “in order to ascertain whether any specific document is subject to privilege,” and then to consult with the former President “so that he may personally make any decision to assert a claim of constitutionally based privilege.” Your April 29 letter further states that in the event we do not afford you further time to review the records before NARA discloses them in response to the request, we should consider your letter to be “a protective assertion of executive privilege made by counsel for the former President.”https://justthenews.com/government/courts-law/full-text-national-archives-letter-trump-classified-documents
The letter, which was dated May 10th, 11 days after the April 29th deadline had passed, shows how NARA went out of its way to provide deference to Trump. It also illustrates how, at the same time, Trump’s lawyers appeared to be doing everything in their power to drag the process out (including delivering their final appeal on the day that the Archives had set to turn the materials over to the DoJ). This documentation helps disarm two Trump defenders’ talking points: (1) “if these documents were so important, why did it take so long to recover them?” and (2) “The former President has not been respected through this process.
And speaking of talking points…
#4. The National Archives, citing the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, demonstrate why the claim of executive privilege does not hold up under legal scrutiny. This is the longest and most in-depth section of the letter, which makes sense as it’s the ultimate purpose of the letter. I’ll do my best to take it point by point. Acting Archivist Steidel Wall first begins by documenting how the determination was made:
I have consulted with the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel to inform my “determination as to whether to honor the former President’s claim of privilege or instead to disclose the Presidential records notwithstanding the claim of privilege.” Exec. Order No. 13,489, § 4(a).https://justthenews.com/government/courts-law/full-text-national-archives-letter-trump-classified-documents
She then lays out the DoJ’s perspective:
The Assistant Attorney General 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 from NARA 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.” 44 U.S.C. § 2205(2)(B).https://justthenews.com/government/courts-law/full-text-national-archives-letter-trump-classified-documents
Then the letter moves into relevant case history starting with the most relevant case on the topic of the limits of a former President’s executive privilege:
[T]the Supreme Court’s decision in Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U.S. 425 (1977), strongly suggests that a former President may not successfully assert executive privilege “against the very Executive Branch in whose name the privilege is invoked.” Id. at 447-48. In Nixon v. GSA, the Court rejected former President Nixon’s argument that a statute requiring that Presidential records from his term in office be maintained in the custody of, and screened by, NARA’s predecessor agency—a “very limited intrusion by personnel in the Executive Branch sensitive to executive concerns”—would “impermissibly interfere with candid communication of views by Presidential advisers.” Id. at 451; see also id. at 455 (rejecting the claim). The Court specifically noted that an “incumbent President should not be dependent on happenstance or the whim of a prior President when he seeks access to records of past decisions that define or channel current governmental obligations.” Id. at 452; see also id. at 441-46https://justthenews.com/government/courts-law/full-text-national-archives-letter-trump-classified-documents
She then, with a bit of snark, delivers her verdict:
The question in this case is not a close one. The Executive Branch here is seeking access to records belonging to, and in the custody of, the Federal Government itself, not only in order to investigate whether those records were handled in an unlawful manner but also, as the National Security Division explained, to “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.”https://justthenews.com/government/courts-law/full-text-national-archives-letter-trump-classified-documents
She even highlights how this decision helps preserve the powers of the office of the Presidency to execute its duties:
Ensuring that classified information is appropriately protected, and taking any necessary remedial action if it was not, are steps essential to preserving the ability of future Presidents to “receive the full and frank submissions of facts and opinions upon which effective discharge of [their] duties depends.” Id. at 449.https://justthenews.com/government/courts-law/full-text-national-archives-letter-trump-classified-documents
Some additional shorter take-aways:
- The letter lays out two reasons for the DoJ’s request for transfer: (1) “conduct[ing] 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. and (2) “for purposes of [the DoJ’s] ongoing criminal investigation.”
- There are more details about the types of documents recovered in January: “According to NARA, among the materials in the boxes are over 100 documents with classification markings, comprising more than 700 pages. Some include the highest levels of classification, including Special Access Program (SAP) materials.“
- As mentioned above, the frustration of the Archives with former President Trump and his legal team is palpable throughout the document. This is signaled from the beginning with the “As you are no doubt aware…”, continues through discussion of the Trump team’s footdragging “Notwithstanding the urgency conveyed by the Department of Justice and the reasonable extension afforded to the former President, your April 29 letter asks for additional time…”, the question at the heart of their claim “is not a close one” (that’s the closes you will get to a government official calling something “bullshit”), and beyond. The letter finishes with a subtle dig as well: “Please note that, in accordance with the PRA, 44 U.S.C. § 2205(3), the former President’s designated representatives can review the records, subject to obtaining the appropriate level of security clearance.” Let us not forget the problems a number of key advisors had with passing security reviews when President Trump was in office.
As this post is far longer than planned, I want to get to the question set up in the subhead: “Why would the Trump team release a document that casts them in such a bad light?” Simply put, to any rational reader this is not a good document for the former President from a legal or process perspective. While “hubris” is always an answer, I think Law Professor Orin Kerr has a stronger answer. Tweeting yesterday about the release of a different Trump filing he noted:
This morning he expanded on the point, adding:
As I said, I think Kerr is right. This is most likely part of a flood-the-zone defense. Time will tell if any coverage continues to remain useful coverage for the former President. Likewise, it will also be telling to see if and how Trump’s supporters will try to spin this in his favor (my best guess is it will involve Biden’s deferral of responsibility and the letter’s “nasty” tone written by a “nasty woman”).
[Update: 11:50am EST, 8/23]
While I promised myself I was going to avoid updating this post, I saw an observation on Twitter that I think is worth including here from Former White House Attorney Ryan Goodman (the rest of his thread echos a lot of the points I raised in the analysis):
Admittedly, we don’t have the communications from the Trump team to NARA (note that transparency has been largely just on the government’s side in the releases). However, given how carefully crafted this letter is to address issues raised by the Trump team, it feels unlikely that if they had mounted an argument about blanket declassification it would have been ignored.
Of course, mounting an argument in the space of public discourse and then never officially making the argument in official proceedings, is a familiar tactic for the Trump legal team.
It should be remembered, that for TFG there are only 2 goals, stay out of jail and keep the rubes sending money. His sympathetic press will twist the meaning of the letter and the money will flow. He’s also betting that his continued high profile and threat to run in 24 will keep prosecution at bay. He may be right in that, given the number of pundits that have advocated either not pursuing charges or Biden pardoning him.
A poll out yesterday shows that 57% of the voters want to see the investigation of TFG completed, so his actions are simply to keep the cult frothing and R politicians cowering. He can be the R nominee in 24 if he wants, but it is extremely doubtful that he’ll win the presidency in an election that is conducted in a historically consistent manner.
Lock Him Up!!!
His own motion admits that he stole classified documents, which did not belong to him, and he refused to return them.
His motion admits that in plain English.
Lock Him Up!!!
Assuming Biden wins a second term, and finishes it, he should not pardon Benito. He should commute his sentence to time served, after he stews in prison for a few years. Say Biden issues the commutation on January 2029, the day he leaves office or the day before.
Reality Winner was sentenced to more than 5 years for leaking a single document that described Russian military attempts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election by hacking a U.S. voting software supplier and by sending spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before the November 8 election.
Lock Him Up!!!
I think Kerr is correct. This has benefited Trump all along. Its like giving Flat Earthers equal time in the “debate” about whether the earth is flat or round. It gets his “side” of the argument out and something for his cult to latch on to as they will believe anything he says.
That’s a perfect summation of the strategy that has worked for him (and others) for so long. In addition to “Flat Earthers”, it’s worth noting how well this worked for Climate Change Deniers, Anti-Vaxxers (hey, it’s “great” to see polio cases on the rise), and the Cigarette Industry (highly recommend the movie version of “Thank you for smoking”).
@Daryl and his brother Darryl:
I’ve been meaning to write about the case of Reality Winner–including the fact she was essentially burned (along with Chelsea Manning) by one of the most ardent anti-anti-Trump defenders (who loves defending a former President he doesn’t support whenever Fox News asks… and even when they don’t ask).
A “historical consistent” election remains an open question as the site hosts and commentariat here constantly discuss.
Perhaps Dr. Taylor’s project to get people to understand how our underlying electoral dysfunctions, plus the occasional seditious acts, are the core problems that they are. Threats to democracy clocked in as the most important issue facing the country for a plurality of registered voters, according to a recent NBC News poll.
@steve: Indeed. Trump is a maestro for playing the press, always has been. He is an incompetent in business but a natural genuis in press manipulation.
@Kathy:..after he stews in prison…
If my arithmetic is correct on Inauguration Day 2029 President Biden will be 86, Trump will be 82 and I will be 81.
When President Ford pardoned Nixon on September 8, 1974* I was 26. I refuse to predict the future yet I would deem it remarkable if the three of us live long enough to experience a second event so momentous in in the history of the United States.
*It has been 48 years yet even now I am stunned as I read these words.
The notion that anyone on Trump’s team thought that releasing that letter would help them is hilarious. What a bunch of clueless nincompoops. I guess he’s (finally) getting the quality of legal advice that he pays for.
I understand Kerr’s point, but I’m not sure that it’s the win he’s suggesting. Trump has long believed that just having his name in the papers is good, even when the news is bad (see, for example, his “John Barron” days), but the stories then didn’t make him look so…stupid.
These filings do. They diminish him further in the minds of any thinking adults. His minions/supporters/whatever we’re calling them these days will always support him, but people appear to have moved on from anger to…laughing at him. He’s a punchline.
It is impossible to overstate the devastating impact on national security that would result from SAP material being compromised. The disregard for our country displayed by how it was stored at Mar-a-Lago, in a room with no more than a padlock, with unknown and unknowable people having access to it, is beyond comprehension.
I can’t even form words about this. It’s utterly mindblowing.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Biden doesn’t run, but he won’t say so until mid-2023 at the earliest.
My advice still stands.
Of course, while a Democrat might do something like this, a GQP president would not only pardon Benito, but would demand he be given billions in compensation.
This assumes that information was IN the padlocked room. Materials were repatriated from a number of places at MAL, including closets in the residence.
The whole thing makes me absolutely ill.
@Jen: This presumes such thinking person gets a reasonable set of information and is not getting information principally via what are essentially party propaganda organs.
The Democrats and all Anti-Trump parties would be very well-advised to not take for granted that such information breaks through. It may, but I would rather suspect that a concentrated Anti-Trumper communciation effort via conservative channels would be needed (although the degree to which such can actually be achieved… clealry difficult, probalby not impossible but extremely difficult).
Taking for granted the impacts of information and underestimating Trump’s natural genuis in burying information in a flurry of dezinformatsia helped contribute to 2016 I think.
So not to be taken for granted.
@Kathy: Jamelle Bouie has a column at NYT this morning arguing for prosecution. Unlike 95% of nationally prominent pundits, he recognizes that deciding not to prosecute is still a decision. And a decision as fraught with political implications as is prosecuting. I will regard it as a miracle if DOJ actually indicts, much less gets a conviction. Actual prison time for an ex-prez, or for any multi-millionaire, seems too much to hope for. That would be too much like having actual rule of law.
The best I’m hoping for is maybe some sort of Agnew like deal. Maybe agree not to prosecute if he renounces his citizenship, which would bar him from running again, while a conviction wouldn’t. A part of me, though, would rather run against Trump in prison, or even just charged, than against DeSantis.
@Lounsbury: Some anecdotal support for your point: the Trumpies I know are already reading this letter as proof of a coordinated Deep State campaign directed by Biden himself to ensure Trump can’t run in 2024.
@Scott F.: Per that poll, 21% of voters think “threats to democracy” are the most important issue. Like the famous right/wrong direction question, that seems ambiguously worded. I’d really like to know how many of those people were thinking about supposed Dem election fraud and communistic mask mandates as the threat.
@Mister Bluster: Me too. I still remember hearing the news of Ford’s pardon of Nixon on my car radio driving to pick up my wife, then girlfriend, for a tennis date. I found her as incensed as I was. That “all crimes” business left me wondering what we, the public, didn’t know about. And whether it implicated Ford and other GOPs. I still wonder about that. Heal the nation my ass.
There is a reason Republicans have waged a 40 year war against education, and the critical thinking that a proper education fosters…Trump.
Trump’s demand for a Special Master is based on specious claims of executive privilege…Joe Biden is the current Executive. Even so; the documents that would trigger EP are…by definition…official documents which belong to the NARA and NOT Trump. As with so much that is today’s Party of Trump – every accusation is actually a admission of guilt.
“If Donald Trump actually still had the nuclear codes, it’d probably be good.”
— Donald Trump, Junior, August 22, 2022, at a fundraiser for Matt Gaetz
@Daryl and his brother Darryl: Treating the entire audience for Trump dezinformatsia as ignorant, uneducate bumpkins, while clearly a bit of pretence you all love, is fundamentally self-blinding. It is a bit of self-harming snobbery.
@Mikey: of course, in the end the deep end of the pool of Trumpism is not the real target, it does not even need Trump own dezinformatsia. However a wider pool of what you perhaps can call soft-Trump or Trump sympathetic may be reachable – in any case in your tight margins it is 5-10% you need to move.
Donnie Jr. is what happens when someone spends their entire adult life without getting a paycheck signed by anyone but their daddy.
And still, after two weeks the MOST IMPORTANT question has not been answered yet – why?
WHY did Trump have hundreds of classified documents in his retirement home in S. Florida?
This is the only question that really matters.
@Mikey: Yes, it’s almost certainly incredibly bad (unlike some random mildly classified doc, which not be so damaging). And if anyone else did it, they’d already be in jail and facing serious time. Just further evidence of just how amazingly unqualified he was and is to be president.
While I still think Ford’s pardon of Nixon was his worst mistake, it might have been ameliorated had Ford demanded a public allocution detailing all the “offenses” he committed, along with an apology. This would have laid things out in the open, and then the nation could heal and move on.
I wonder what Ford knew about the extent of Nixon’s crimes. My bet, more than the press and public, less than Nixon and his intimates.
@Daryl and his brother Darryl:
One thing I’ve learned during the Benito era is that it’s futile, and frustrating, to try to apply reason to an irrational actor.
The country mostly accepted Ford’s pardon of Nixon, because Tricky Dick, mostly, retired quietly to San Clemente. He did surface for the opening of the Nixon Library and privately advised Reagan and I believe Clinton, on Russia, but he was mostly gone from public life. It is hard to imagine TFG doing the same.
You could get him to sign in blood an affidavit outlining the crimes he was accepting the pardon for and promise to leave public life, and the next day he’d declare it all fake. His worshipers would then line up behind him. Jail or death will be the only way that America rids itself of the trump plague and even then we’ll still be dealing with trumpism.
@Lounsbury: From personal experience in both a political capacity and PR capacity, even the most successful campaign mantras run their courses and become tired. Trump is very good at one thing, and one thing only. Specifically setting aside his most ardent believers, he still needs the “I am a Republican and will vote for Republicans, but gawd this guy” voters in order to win.
Those are the people I’m talking about. Not his ardent supporters, who will never leave him.
His particular brand of nonsense is ending its shelf life for a small portion of GOP voters, as evidenced by Ron DeSantis’s rise, and Laura Ingram’s recent defection from the House of Trump. This is a margin he cannot afford to lose.
@Daryl and his brother Darryl:
I’ve been told that Donnie Jr. is what happens when cousins and step siblings marry.
It will be a crime not to indict and try Benito.
BTW, a disabling stroke would also put a political end to him. Usually I don’t wish suffering on others, but in his case there’s ample cause for an exception.
You’re right that we don’t really know what is driving the 21% seeing threat to democracy number. But, I’m just grateful the general population is paying attention to the topic. It’s an important first baby step.
A most enlightening post, Matt. Thanks.
I thought Donnie Jr was proof it was possible to get pregnant from anal intercourse. Shit for brains come to life.
Here’s an interesting catch (https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1561828607852482562)
@Jay L Gischer: Ugh, the second level of blockquote should have been out of blockquote. It’s my commentary.
You know we have to assume everything was compromised. There’s no way to ascertain otherwise. Trump’s idiot lawyer (well, one of his idiot lawyers) was on TV the other day and couldn’t remotely guess who had access to what.
This may not be Snowden level in the amount of information that was illegally removed, but it’s certainly possible the information Trump stole would be far worse for the nation if it ended up in the wrong hands.
Do you have a source on that claim? I had not heard it before.
Recent reporting has suggested that it was video footage of traffic into and out of the “secure” area that helped push the FBI over the edge.
Also, whenever you see this, @Andy I’m curious about your take on the letter based on our ongoing conversations.
@Jen: Certainly, you would not see from me a disagreement, however that is quite the different subject from your initial comment and what I commented on –
My comment was the information needs to break through – in a digestable format I would further add – and be heard.
Different subject than campaign slogans, messaging…. of course fatigue sets in but I should be very wary however of counting on the information breaking through to the necessary extent, at least not without a concentrated effort via channels other than the usual Lefty ones. Not to say it can not or will not, but I am wary of counting on it.
@Kathy: I wonder about how much Nixon knew about his crimes. There’s a point when if you keep thinking “if the President does it, it’s not illegal” long enough, it stops being bullshit to you.
@Matt Bernius: I’ve seen a transcript that says Trump’s attorneys ask the FBI to tell them what rooms documents were taken from.
Which means they don’t know. And they are scared. As in, “how much do you guys know?”
The FBI declined. Of course.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
So you’d have had to sit him down with several lawyers, and have him detail everything he did. They could also listen to the infamous tapes, review written records, interview other people, etc. All to keep score of what was criminal.
@Jay L Gischer:
They declined to answer that?
I’d have replied: From the rooms where we found documents. You know what these are, yes?
I see around 5:00 FOX finally posted this story, but under the title Biden signed off on FBI review of Trump records, National Archives letter reveals. This is based on Biden declining to extend executive privilege to Trump, which happened months ago and as far as I’m aware was a blanket deal, nothing specific to the Mar a Lago documents. FOX apparently took all day to come up with this.
While Biden has scrupulously stayed away from DOJ FOX has been arguing both that Biden ordered the raid for political reasons and that poor Old Joe had no idea what was going on. Apparently FOX thinks this supports the Biden ordered it argument. I expect their readers will see it so. While still believing Old Joe has no clue
@Matt Bernius: Business Insider is reporting that documents were found in closets: https://www.businessinsider.com/fbi-found-white-house-files-in-basement-and-closet-in-trumps-office-2022-8
Much of the discussion of this letter misses the point. It’s another ‘scandal’ for the Trump Cult to add to its endless list of grievances against the ‘Biden Crime Family’ and the Deep State. No Trump foot soldier will actually read the letter. They’ll be informed of what’s in it by Fox, and Newsmax, and the countless Trumpropaganda websites that carry Trump’s water. And every one of them announced this morning that the letter proved Biden was up to his neck in directing the raid on Mar-a-Lago and lied through his teeth when he claimed he had no advance warning of it.
This is, of course, a blatant lie about the contents of the letter. Unfortunately, many leftists and ‘moderates’ still struggle to cope with a political movement whose default strategy is to peddle a narrative of lies and misrepresentations.
@Kathy: My best response to that is: “We at the FBI do not have a sense of humor that we’re aware of.”
Thanks Jen! They’re relying on the NT Times article I cited in the article. I need to go a reread that one to get some more info on that.
@Matt Bernius: I’ve suspected that the earlier threat Trump made of releasing the security footage had something to do with the FBI entering areas of MAL that are considered the private/personal residence and removing items from there–setting Trump off, but that was just a guess, so I’ve been wondering about this aspect of it.
My guess all along has been that Trump would spread stuff around MAL, rather than keeping it all in one spot.
Here’s the excerpt from the NYT piece:
“The F.B.I. agents who conducted the search found the additional documents in the storage area in the basement of Mar-a-Lago, as well as in a container in a closet in Mr. Trump’s office, the people said.”