Former President Donald Trump made a variety of false or unsubstantiated claims in his initial response to an FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago residence and resort in August. Five months later, Trump is now trying to use President Joe Biden’s recently revealed document handling controversy to bolster his public defense of him, but is still littering his comment with unsubstantiated claims.
Here’s a fact check on three of the claims Trump has made in the past week.
Trump laid out a new claim in two posts on his social media platform on Wednesday. He suggested that the FBI may have incorrectly described the empty folders he seized at Mar-a-Lago, folders he had kept as a “‘cool’ souvenir,” as actual documents.
Trump wrote that, as president, he was presented with documents in folders labeled with words such as “Classified” or “Confidential.” He wrote that although he would return these documents immediately, he kept “hundreds” of the empty folders as keepsakes. He wrote that while Democrats and the media continue to say he had a “large” amount of documents, “perhaps” the FBI, which he described as “the Gestapo,” the Nazi secret police, mistakenly described some of these empty folders “as a document.”
facts first: There is no evidence that the FBI is incorrectly describing the empty folders. In fact, the Department of Justice detailed inventory Of the items seized at Mar-a-Lago in August, an inventory filed in court by a senior FBI agent under penalty of perjury explicitly lists separate “empty folders,” distinguishing them from the government documents that were recovered. inventory lists 103 government documents with classification marks, hundreds of government documents without classification marks, and 88 empty folders, including 46 empty folders that had “CLASSIFIED” banners. None of the government documents is just an empty folder, according to the inventory.
Trump’s claim that the empty folders in his possession were mere keepsakes of documents he promptly returned when he was president has been neither proven nor disproved. Even after the Mar-a-Lago search, the Justice Department continued to make it clear that it was not sure that Trump had returned all of the government documents he possessed in his post-presidency, and that it saw the presence of empty folders with banners. classified in Mar-a-Lago as a serious problem that needs investigation. In any US case where empty folders with classified banners were located, “the FBI would have primary responsibility for investigating what materials may have once been stored in these folders and whether they may have been lost or compromised,” the Justice Department said. in a court. presentation in September.
The official inventory specifically explains how the empty folders found at Mar-a-Lago were labeled. For example, the inventory says that one particular “box/container” taken from Trump’s office included “43 empty folders labeled ‘CLASSIFIED’” and “28 empty folders labeled ‘Return to Assistant/Personnel Secretary’. military man'”. Even the empty folders that were labeled “CLASSIFIED” were not grouped with the government documents that had classified markings.
It is theoretically possible that there are errors in the inventory; the Justice Department filed a revised version in September that made minor changes to the original inventory filed in August, which the government explained it needed to complete in a single business day. But the Revised Version and the original version listed the same number of government documents with classification marks, 103, and made only a minor revision to the number of empty folders with classified banners, putting them at 46 instead of the original claim of 48. It is completely clear that the empty folders are not the reason why the number of documents found in Trump’s possession has been widely described as “large.”
Trump has claimed that he was simply complying with the relevant law, the Presidential Records Act, by engaging in a post-presidency negotiation with the National Archives and Records Administration over the return of documents. He said in an interview with right-wing commentator Mark Levin last week that “the Presidential Records Act is: I’m supposed to deal, I’m supposed to deal. I gave them many things. I was ready to give them the things they robbed.”
In a social media post Saturday, Trump wrote: “I was President of the USA and was covered and protected by the Presidential Records Act, which is non-criminal and allows and encourages talking to NARA, which We were, very kindly, “until the FBI search in August.
facts first: Nothing in the Presidential Records Act suggests that there should be a negotiation between a former president and the National Archives and Records Administration about which presidential records should be turned over to NARA and when, let alone that there should have been a battle of months after NARA first sought the return of Trump’s records in 2021. The law simply says that when a president leaves office, NARA assumes control of all presidential records.
Jason R. Baron, former NARA director of litigation and now a professor at the University of Maryland, said in an email: “Under the Presidential Records Act, as of noon on January 20, 2021, all White House presidential records of Trump by operation of the law passed into the legal custody of the Archivist of the United States. The law does not provide or contemplate that a former president may ‘negotiate’ the terms of handing over physical custody of records that properly belong to the American people.”
Timothy Naftali, CNN presidential historian, New York University professor and former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, said in an email: “The determination of what is a presidential document, and therefore public property, in the PRA It is not subject to negotiation. Congress determined the definitions in 1978. I don’t understand what the former president is referring to when he mentions a negotiation process with NARA. Perhaps he was referring to negotiations over how materials would be delivered to the White House at the end of an administration. But there is no negotiation about what is delivered”.
Trump’s claim that he was dealing “very well” with NARA, which he repeated in the interview with Levin last week, is subjective, but clearly it wasn’t some sort of harmonious working relationship. The FBI search in August came more than a year after NARA began trying to recover all of Trump’s presidential records, and months after NARA notified the Justice Department of the presence of items marked as classified national security information. in the boxes of Trump materials. he had returned to NARA last January.
Trump continues to float the idea that the FBI or the Department of Justice could have planted evidence or could proceed to plant evidence.
Trump suggested on his social media platform in August that he was suspicious of the FBI not allowing witnesses, like his lawyers, to be in the rooms that were being searched and “see what they were doing, taking or hopefully not planting ”. ‘” In September, Trump saying In a television interview on Fox: “Did they put something in those files, or did they do it later?”
And in a post on his social media platform on Wednesday, after outlining his theory about the empty folders, Trump wrote: “It is also possible that the Trump-hating Marxist thugs in charge will ‘plant’ documents while in possession of the material.” . .”
facts first: There is no evidence that anyone planted anything at Mar-a-Lago or among the items seized at Mar-a-Lago. Despite Trump’s own assertions, Trump’s legal team has northever discussed in a court filing that the FBI or Department of Justice planted evidence, even when given an explicit opportunity to do so. This routine, not suspicious, that the searches are carried out without the presence of witnesses, such as lawyers, in the courtroom; Lawyers have no right to look. And there are no signs that anyone involved in the investigation is a “Marxist.”
The claim about the possibility of items being planted is impossible to definitively discredit at this point, and it’s obviously impossible to discredit a claim about what could happen in the future. But Trump and his team have not provided any evidence to back up his insinuations on this issue. Before an appeals court halted a special master review of the seized items, Trump’s lawyers resisted an effort by the special master to have them say in a court affidavit whether they believed the official inventory included items that actually they were not seized from Mar-a-Lago, in other words, if they believed false elements were inserted into the evidence. A judge later ruled that they did not have to make this statement.