The records unsealed on Friday also showed how Trump’s attorneys tried to convince the Justice Department not to pursue a criminal investigation, arguing Trump had the authority to declassify documents.
In one section, it references an article published in May by former Trump administration official Kash Patel, who claimed media reports about the National Archives identifying classified material at Mar-a-Lago were “misleading.”
Brandon Fox, a former federal prosecutor now with Jenner and Block, said he believes the references to Trump’s claims about declassifying the documents are significant, even though much of the material is redacted.
“They likely indicate the proof the DOJ believes it has showing that Mr Trump had not declassified the documents,” he told Reuters.
The newly released records also showed how Trump’s attorneys sought to downplay the Justice Department’s concerns about the records.
“Any attempt to impose criminal liability on a President or former President that involves his actions with respect to documents marked classified would implicate grave constitutional separation-of-powers issues,” Trump’s attorney Evan Corcoran wrote in a May 25 letter to the Justice Department’s head of counterintelligence.
“Beyond that, the primary criminal statute that governs the unauthorised removal and retention of classified documents or material does not apply to the President,” he added.
The FBI agent said a preliminary review of the records the Archives received in the 15 boxes, which was conducted between May 16-18, found 184 “unique documents” labelled as classified.
Of those, 67 were marked “confidential” while 92 were marked as “secret” and 25 marked as “top secret.”
Other defence-related records, meanwhile, contained references to things such as confidential sources that help the United States with its intelligence-gathering, as well as details on how the US conducts foreign surveillance and information it collected using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – the law that established the country’s domestic surveillance programme.