‘Nothing secret about it’: Trump repeats false explanation for how classified documents got to Mar-a-Lago

Mr Trump is still trying to blame the General Services Administration for the presence of national defence information at his Florida home

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Thursday 01 September 2022 16:36 BST
Trump lawyer admits he ‘frequently’ had guests in room with top secret papers

Former president Donald Trump on Thursday repeated a previously-discredited explanation for how classified documents he hoarded during his term ended up at his Palm Beach, Florida home during an appearance on a conservative talk radio show.

Mr Trump was speaking to right-wing talk show host John Fredericks when he was asked how reams of national defence information found by the FBI during an 8 August search of his home ended up there instead of being deposited in the National Archives as required by law.

In response, he claimed one “accumulate[s] a lot of stuff” during a four-year term in the White House.

“Then all of a sudden you're leaving, and stuff gets packed up ... all sorts of stuff, you know, mostly the boxes, pictures and newspapers and shirts ... and you know, golf balls and just it's a lot of stuff,” he said.

Mr Trump then said he believed the boxes were transported to Florida by the General Services Administration, a relatively small government agency responsible for federal employee payroll, contracts for and purchasing of things such as office supplies, and maintenance of federal office space. It was also the agency that refused to recognize Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory and begin the presidential transition process for weeks after it was clear that Mr Trump had lost.

While the GSA has said it was responsible for contracting a moving company to ship Mr Trump’s belongings back to Mar-a-Lago at the end of his term, it has denied any involvement in the packing of boxes in the White House residence.

According to White House sources who have spoken to The Independent about the mechanics of presidential transitions, the packing and moving of the president’s personal effects is always directed by the outgoing president and First Lady and carried out by White House staff who have the proper clearances to be present in the residential portion of the White House.

But former Trump administration officials have said Mr Trump had a habit of filling banker’s boxes with various papers he asked to have brought to him in the White House residence. These boxes, some of which were carried by aides when Mr Trump traveled away from the White House, were always filled with materials put there at the then-president’s direction.

Mr Trump also repeated a discredited claim to have declassified all the materials at issue in what has become a long-running dispute with the Department of Justice that now threatens his political future, and perhaps his own freedom.

“There's nothing secret about it,” he said. “It didn't have to be anything secret, and it’s all declassified”.

No evidence has emerged to suggest Mr Trump declassified any of the documents he took to Florida, and regardless of classification status they would have remained the property of the United States under US law.

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