A Donald Trump employee told the FBI that the former president ordered boxes of documents moved from a warehouse at his Mar-a-Lago residence after the former president received a subpoena to return classified material, the Washington Post reported. reported on Wednesday.
The FBI corroborated that account with surveillance footage showing an employee moving boxes from a basement storage area, people familiar with the investigation told the Post.
The witness account and the video could play a key role in showing how Trump handled classified documents that the National Archives and Justice Department have repeatedly requested for months, suggesting he tried to thwart officials’ efforts to retrieve them.
Those two key elements led the Justice Department to seek judicial authorization for a search warrant at the Palm Beach, Florida resort, according to the Post.
The Justice Department issued a subpoena for the return of classified material in May. In June, the department sent officials to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve any remaining materials. They were reportedly shown the basement storage room and assured by Trump’s legal team that all classified material had already been returned.
On August 8, the FBI executed a search warrant at the Florida estate and recovered thousands of other documents, including more than 100 that had been marked classified, some containing highly classified information at the highest classification levels.
Trump is being investigated for a number of potential crimes in the Mar-a-Lago dossier, including obstruction, destruction of government records and mishandling of classified information.
According to the Post, multiple witnesses told the FBI that they tried to get Trump to cooperate with the National Archives and Justice Department as they tried for months to recover documents in his possession, but he refused.
The Trump staffer initially denied handling sensitive documents, but in a second interview, the staffer’s story changed dramatically, the Post reported. Later in the interview, the witness said they moved the boxes at Trump’s behest.
The witness is now considered a key element in the investigation, sources told the Post.
The newspaper said Trump’s spokesman, Taylor Budowitz, did not respond to questions about the article and instead issued a statement accusing President Joe Biden’s administration of arming the Justice Department.
“The Biden administration has armed law enforcement and manufactured a Document Hoax in a desperate attempt to maintain political power,” the statement said. “Every other President has been given time and respect regarding the management of the documents, as the President has the ultimate authority to categorize records and material to be classified.”
Trump has offered several, sometimes conflicting, defenses for holding the documents at Mar-a-Lago, which is also a private club. He called it a politically motivated attack, suggested the FBI plant evidence and argued he was allowed to have the documents anyway because he could declassify them with his mind.