Trump allegedly held onto 70 boxes of classified documents – while telling staffer to claim all were returned

Trump allegedly held onto 70 boxes of classified documents – while telling staffer to claim all were returned

Donald Trump allegedly held onto 70 boxes of classified documents while telling one of his staffers to claim that they were all returned.

In a Thursday filing in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida in West Palm Beach, the Department of Justice opposed Trump staffer Walt Nauta’s motion to “suppress evidence”.

The prosecutors noted that Mr Nauta “had been a valet in the White House during Trump’s administration” and that he “previously held a high-level security clearance and received training in handling classified documents”.

“During his presidency, Trump used dozens of boxes to accumulate and store records in an informal filing system,” they added. “At the end of his presidency in January 2021, around 85 to 95 of these boxes were removed from the White House and transported to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s residence in Palm Beach, Florida, where they were later placed in a storage room.”

Mr Nauta was part of the team that moved the boxes, prosecutors say.

In 2021, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had discussions with Mr Trump regarding the documents.

“Trump wanted to review his boxes before providing them to NARA, and employees (including Nauta) brought two to four at a time to his personal residence in Mar-a-Lago for him to review,” the Department of Justice said in the filing. “After the employees (including Nauta) brought about 15 to 17 boxes, Trump instructed them to stop, and on January 17, 2022, employees handed over 15 boxes to NARA.”

“Trump indicated to his staff that the 15 boxes were the only boxes that would be going to NARA and that there were no more, and he instructed an employee to tell one of his lawyers there were no more boxes at Mara-Lago,” they added. “But about 70 to 80 boxes remained in the storage room.”

The judge in charge of the case, US District Judge Aileen Cannon, has set a hearing for next week for legal arguments while a trial date is yet to be set.

Telling the legal teams to be prepared to remain in court for all of Thursday, Judge Cannon, who was appointed by Mr Trump and has made several rulings favourable to him, said she wants to hear arguments on Mr Trump’s claims that he’s protected from prosecution by the Presidential Records Act as well as that criminal law can’t be used to prosecute him for mishandling classified documents as a former president.

The Act was put in place in 1978 and states that presidential records belong to the public and must be handed over to NARA after the end of every presidency.

Mr Trump argues that he deemed the papers personal, and therefore his property.

But prosecutors argued that the papers are “indisputably presidential, not personal,” adding that the Act would still not cover Mr Trump’s retention of classified information.

“Nothing in the PRA leaves it to a President to make unilateral, unreviewable, and perpetually binding decisions to remove presidential records from the White House in a manner that thwarts the operation of the PRA — a statute designed to ensure that presidential records are the property of the United States and that they are preserved for the people,” the office of Special Counsel Jack Smith said in one of its 11 filings on Thursday.