NARA Letter May Refute WH Claims of Not Knowing About Trump Raid Mar-a-Lago (AP)
By Jay Clemons | Wednesday, 07 September 2022 02:34 PM EDT
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) reportedly refuted a White House claim that President Joe Biden had no advance knowledge of the FBI's Aug. 8 raid of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon granted the Trump team's request for a special master in the legal dispute between Trump and the Justice Department.
During the course of that ruling, Judge Cannon also identified a springtime letter from the National Archives to Trump's legal team, with the conclusion reading: "NARA will provide the FBI access to the records in question, as requested by the incumbent President, beginning as early as Thursday, May 12, 2022."
The "incumbent" president being Biden.
The significance here: In the weeks after the FBI visit to Trump's Florida home, White House officials have denied any prior knowledge of the raid on a former U.S. president — and someone who's also the current favorite to secure the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
"No. The president was not briefed … was not aware of it. No. No one at the White House was given a heads up," White House press secretary Jean-Pierre said on Aug. 9, a day after the FBI raid. "We learned about this just like the public, just as you all were reporting it, through the public reports."
NARA's acting archivist Debra Wall might have also played a role in the Biden administration knowing about the Mar-a-Lago raid well in advance.
According to reports, Wall alerted the White House sometime that an initial review of the records sent to NARA from Mar-a-Lago included "identified items marked as classified national security information."
In her follow-up letter, Wall wrote: "NARA informed the Department of Justice about that discovery, which prompted the Department to ask the President to request that NARA provide the FBI with access to the boxes at issue so that the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community could examine them. On April 11, 2022, the White House Counsel's Office — affirming a request from the Department of Justice supported by an FBI letterhead memorandum — formally transmitted a request that NARA provide the FBI access to the 15 boxes for its review within seven days."
A day later, according to reports, a DOJ-obtained grand jury subpoena allowed for investigators to visit Mar-a-Lago in June — with the raid taking place in August.
Last month, after word broke of the FBI raid on Trump's Florida estate, Attorney General Merrick Garland revealed he "personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter."
Biden has yet to formally answer a question about when he personally learned of the FBI raid involving Trump, although Biden recently mocked his White House predecessor by saying, "I just want you to know I've declassified everything in the world. I'm president, I can do — come on."
Habba said the Presidential Records Act gives Trump — and every other U.S. president, past and present — the authority to declassify documents while holding office.
And by all accounts, Habba said Trump's team of Florida attorneys had been fully cooperating with NARA officials.
"So, it was a bit of surprise, you can imagine, when the [FBI] raid happened," says Habba.