The Mar-a-Lago witness told the FBI that boxes were being moved on Trump’s orders

A Trump aide has briefed federal agents about moving boxes of documents to Mar-a-Lago on the former president’s specific orders, according to people familiar with the investigation, who say the witness account — combined with surveillance camera footage — offers key evidence for Donald Trump’s conduct when investigators requested the return of classified information.

The witness description and footage described to The Washington Post offers the most direct account yet of Trump’s actions and instructions leading up to the 14/8 FBI attack potential criminal offenses, including obstruction, destruction of government records, or misuse of classified information.

People familiar with the investigation said agents have collected testimonies that indicate this that after Trump advisers received a subpoena for all the classified documents remaining at Mar-a-Lago in May, Trump told people to bring boxes to his apartment on the property. This description of events was corroborated by surveillance camera footage, which showed people moving the boxes, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Justice Department and FBI spokesmen declined to comment.

Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich declined to answer detailed questions for this article. “The Biden administration has armed law enforcement and fabricated a document scam in a desperate attempt to retain political power,” Budowich said in a statement. “Every other president has been given time and respect regarding the management of documents, as the president has ultimate authority to categorize records and what materials should be classified.”

The warrant authorizing the search of former President Donald Trump’s home said agents were looking for documents possessed in violation of the Espionage Act. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Budowich accused the Justice Department of “continuous efforts to pass misleading and false information to partisan allies in the Fake News,” saying doing so “is nothing short of dangerous political interference and unequal justice.” Put simply, it’s un-American.”

Classified documents are routinely mishandled at the Trump White House, train attendants say

The employee, who worked at Mar-a-Lago, is cooperating with the Justice Department and has been questioned multiple times by federal agents, who refused to identify the worker, according to people familiar with the situation.

In the first interview, these people said, the witness refused to handle sensitive documents or the boxes that might contain such documents. As they gathered evidence, the agents decided to re-interview the witness, and the witness’ story changed dramatically, these people said. In the second interview, the witness described moving boxes at Trump’s request.

The witness is now considered a key element in the Mar-a-Lago investigation, these people said, offering details of the former president’s alleged actions and instructions to subordinates, which may have been an attempt to meet federal officials’ demands for the return of classified information to thwart and government documents.

Several witnesses have told the FBI that they tried to persuade Trump to cooperate with the National Archives and Records Administration and the Justice Department after months of those agencies seeking the return of sensitive or historical government records, people familiar with the situation said.

But pleas from advisers and lawyers urging Trump to return the documents fell on Trump’s deaf ears, these people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to have private conversations. Trump became furious this spring after a House Oversight Committee investigation was launched, telling aides they had “screwed up” the situation, according to people who heard his comments. “These are my documents,” Trump said, according to an aide who spoke with him.

The details shared with The Post reveal two key parts of the criminal investigation that have been kept secret: a report from a witness who worked for Trump and received instructions from Trump, and the way security footage of Mar-a-Lago is played an important role in supporting witness testimony.

Together, these pieces of evidence helped persuade the FBI and Justice Department to conduct court-authorized searches of Trump’s home, office and a storage room in Mar-a-Lago, leading to the seizure of 103 documents classified as classified and as such were not deemed to have been handed over to the government in response to the May subpoena. Some of the documents describe top-secret US operations that are so closely guarded that many senior national security officials remain unaware. The August 8 search also found about 11,000 documents not marked as classified.

The failure, or possible refusal, to return the classified documents in response to the subpoena is at the center of the Justice Department’s Mar-a-Lago investigation, which is one of several high-profile ongoing investigations involving Trump. The former president remains the most influential figure in the Republican Party and has been open about running for the White House again in 2024.

There have been months of dueling allegations and theories around Trump over who might be working with the federal government. Some of the former president’s closest associates have continued to work with Trump despite seeing FBI agents show up at their homes to question them and serve subpoenas.

The status of important investigations related to Donald Trump

Within the Department of Justice and the FBI, the witness’s account was a closely guarded secret as agents continue to gather evidence for the high-stakes investigation. Aside from wanting to keep the information they’ve gathered so far private, people familiar with the situation said, authorities also fear that person could be harassed or threatened by Trump supporters if or when the witness’s identity eventually becomes public.

In a filing with the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Justice Department lawyers appeared to allude to witness testimony and the video footage as they wrote: “The FBI uncovered evidence that the response to the grand jury subpoena was incomplete, that other classified documents likely remained at Mar-a-Lago, and that efforts were likely made to obstruct the investigation .”

Since August 8, Trump has offered a series of public defenses as to why documents with classified markings have remained at Mar-a-Lago — he said he declassified the classified documents, suggesting the FBI planted evidence during the search and that as a former President he might have had a right to keep secret documents. National security law experts have overwhelmingly dismissed such claims, saying they range from the far-fetched to the nonsensical.

Among items confiscated at Mar-a-Lago: Document on a foreign government’s nuclear capabilities

Officials at the National Archives began searching for the return of documents last year after they came to believe that some presidential records held by the Trump administration — such as letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — were unreported and may have been in Trump’s possession.

After months of back-and-forth, Trump agreed in January to hand over 15 boxes of supplies. When archivists examined the material, they found 184 documents marked as secret, including 25 documents marked as top secret Scattered across the boxes in no particular order, according to court records.

This discovery suggested to authorities that Trump had not turned over all of the classified documents in his possession. In May, a grand jury subpoena required the return of classified documents with a variety of markings, including a category used for nuclear weapons secrets.

In response to that subpoena, Trump’s advisers met with government agents and prosecutors in Mar-a-Lago in early June and delivered a sealed envelope containing another 38 classified documents, including 17 documents marked as top secret, according to court records. According to government documents, Trump’s representatives at the meeting claimed that a diligent search had been conducted for all classified documents at the club.

That meeting, which included a visit to the storage room where Trump’s advisers said the relevant boxes of documents were kept, did not satisfy investigators, who were not allowed to inspect the boxes they saw in the storage room, according to government court filings.

The Trump team initially said the boxes at Mar-a-Lago were just news clippings

Five days later, senior Justice Department official Jay Bratt wrote to Trump’s attorneys to remind them that Mar-a-Lago “contains no secure location authorized for the storage of classified information.” Bratt wrote that it appeared classified documents “were not handled appropriately or kept in an appropriate place.”

“Accordingly, we are asking that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents were kept be secured and that any boxes brought from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that Room ) in this room will remain in their current condition until further notice.”

Agents continued to gather evidence that Trump appeared to have failed to comply with government requests or subpoenas. After careful consideration Aware that it would be highly unusual for federal agents to search a former president’s home, they decided to seek a judge’s approval.

that August. 8 searches turned up 103 classified documents in a matter of hours, including 18 documents classified as top secret, court filings show. The stash contained at least one document that described a foreign country’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities.

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