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The curious moment Trump named two allies to access his records

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On June 19, former President Donald Trump sent a letter to the National Archives. The subject was not his ongoing dispute with the agency over equipment he had removed from the White House and brought to his Mar-a-Lago resort. Instead, it named two people — former Trump administration official Kash P. Patel and conservative writer John Solomon — as “representatives for access to my administration’s presidential records.”

In light of what we’ve learned in the week since FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago and removed dozens of boxes of gear, the timing of this appointment is interesting.

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A full timeline of what transpired before the FBI’s search is below, but June was an important month for the government’s efforts to recover the material.

By then, the Archives had already referred the matter to the Department of Justice and a grand jury had issued a subpoena for the recovery of the material. On June 3, a senior department official traveled to Mar-a-Lago with several FBI agents, examining the storage room where much of the material seized last week would be recovered. They would soon ask that the room “be secured” – suggesting that it may not have been secured before – and that the material in it not be moved. Days later, The New York Times reported over the weekend, a lawyer for Trump signed a document saying there was no classified material left at Mar-a-Lago.

On June 22, the Justice Department subpoenaed security footage of Mar-a-Lago, including near the storage room. Trump’s team flipped it.

“According to a person briefed on the matter, footage showed that after one instance Justice Department officials were in contact with Mr. Trump’s team, boxes were moved in and out of the room” , reported the Times.

In the midst of all this and three days before this subpoena, Patel and Solomon were wiretapped as authorized consumers of Trump’s records. Explaining the decision to Politico, Solomon indicated that the intention was for him to write a story of the Russia investigation — a story that a Trump spokesperson rightly expected to be supportive in a media statement.

After it was reported that material handed over by Trump in January included classified material, Patel sat down with Breitbart to offer a defense that has come up a lot in the meantime: Trump had in fact declassified everything in advance.

It could have been interested. As an administration official, Patel likely had a high level of security clearance, as journalist Marcy Wheeler noted in an assessment of Solomon-Patel’s appointment, which may have been rescinded in the part of an investigation to determine whether he had disclosed classified information. If he had seen what Trump had in that storage room, Wheeler points out, Trump might be more involved in crime. The same goes for Salomon: as a journalist, he would not have been authorized to consult these documents.

Maybe it’s a coincidence. Maybe Trump just named Patel and Solomon as he intended all along.

Or, maybe he and his team figured out that the government’s interest in what he had in that storage room by the pool at Mar-a-Lago hadn’t waned, and that it would be useful to lock up his two allies in the community of people with credible clearance to see what he had taken from the White House. Perhaps he realized he couldn’t keep the documents indefinitely and so wanted his defenders to have the legal authority to look at them.

One could be forgiven for wondering if perhaps they had already.

Update: In response to an email from The Post, Solomon denied seeing the material stored at Mar-a-Lago.

“My clearance as a representative to the National Archives with access to the Trump collection has nothing to do with the grand jury investigation, the Mar-a-Lago documents dispute, or the FBI search.” he writes. “It was granted solely in my capacity as a journalist. I did not access the documents in Florida, seek to access them, or have anything to do with them or the dispute surrounding them.

Patel did not respond to our request.

January 20, 2021. Watching Trump leave the White House, National Archivist David S. Ferriero notices staff carrying boxes.

“I remember seeing the Trumps leaving the White House and coming down in a helicopter that day, and someone wearing a white banker’s box, and saying to me, ‘What’s in this box? “, He told the Post. This, he says, triggers a review of what the National Archives had received from the incumbent president.

May. The archives realize that high-profile documents from Trump’s presidency — like his communications with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — are actually missing from his archives.

At one point, The Post reported, “Archive officials threatened that if Trump’s team did not voluntarily produce the documents, they would send a letter to Congress or the Justice Department revealing the lack of cooperation.

The end of the year. Trump begins packing equipment to send back to Washington.

He was “visibly secretive about the packaging process,” reported The Post, “and key aides and long-time administrative employees have not seen the contents.”

January 17. A contractor arrives at Mar-a-Lago to retrieve 15 boxes of equipment removed by Trump at the end of his administration.

February 9. The Post reports that the National Archives has referred Trump’s handling of the records to the Justice Department.

February 18. The Archives informs the Department of Justice that some of the documents delivered by Trump have been marked as classified.

May. A grand jury issues a subpoena for the documents the government believed were in Trump’s possession even after turning over the earlier documents. This was in conjunction with interviews conducted by the Ministry of Justice.

May 5. Patel speaks to Breitbart, saying Trump has already declassified documents that were given to the government in January.

June 3. Jay I. Bratt, head of the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Controls Section, visits Mar-a-Lago with three FBI agents. They are shown a storage area with boxes containing material from the White House, some of which they take with them when they leave.

At one point, Trump himself greets the officials. “Anything you need, let us know,” he reportedly told them.

A few days later. One of Trump’s attorneys signs a written statement saying all documents marked as classified have been returned to the government.

June 8. Bratt emails Trump’s team asking for a stronger lock to be installed in the room.

“We ask that the room in Mar-a-Lago where the documents had been stored be secured and that all boxes that have been moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (as well as any other objects in this room) be preserved. in this room in their current state until further notice,” it read.

June 19. Asset names Patel and Solomon as his “representatives for access to my administration’s presidential records”.

A spokeswoman for the former president said the two were selected so they could “work to make available to the American people previously declassified documents that reveal a clear conspiracy to illegally spy on the candidate and then President Donald. J. Trump – by the FBI, DOJ, and others – the greatest state-sponsored crime in American history This framing, needless to say, is unfounded.

June 22. The government subpoenas surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago security cameras over a period of 60 days, which is being handed over. It includes images of the exterior of the storage room.

5 August. Believing that Trump still had material in his possession that needed to be returned, the FBI obtained a search warrant from a federal magistrate in West Palm Beach.

August 8. Mar-a-Lago is wanted by the FBI. Among the material recovered are more than 20 boxes of material, two photo binders and a number of classified items identified as confidential, secret or top secret.

August 11. Attorney General Merrick Garland announces that he will request that the search warrant be unsealed.

The mandate is made public. During an appearance on Fox News, Solomon claims that Trump had a general order to declassify material he brought to the residence section of the White House.