Friday, December 2

The Justice Department believes Trump might have more White House documents

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice suspects former President Donald Trump still possesses documents that he took from the White House, people familiar with the matter told NBC News on Friday.

The department’s top counterintelligence official, Jay Bratt, recently communicated that concern to Trump’s lawyers, the sources said.

The New York Times reported Thursday that the department believed Trump had not returned all of the documents he took from the White House. This was also confirmed by The Wall Street Journal.

The revelation leaves some key questions unanswered, including whether the department has concrete evidence that Trump still holds classified material or it’s just a suspicion based on inferences, such as the empty envelopes with classified markings that were seized at Mar-a-Lago or information from the National Archives that it’s still missing documents from Trump’s presidency.

Various court filings from the department have suggested that some presidential records are still missing.

In a September filing opposing US District Judge Aileen Cannon’s ruling barring the Justice Department from accessing documents seized at Mar-a-Lago, the department complained that her ruling “appears to bar the FBI and DOJ from further reviewing the records to discern any patterns in the types of records that were retained, which could lead to identification of other records still missing.”

The Justice Department has also pointed to the empty envelopes marked classified that the FBI seized at Mar-a-Lago as evidence some teachers could be missing.

The Times reported that Trump’s lawyers were split on how to respond to the Justice Departments questions about any further records in the former president’s possession, with one faction, led by attorney Chris Kise, suggesting they hire a forensic accounting firm to search for additional documents. Other lawyers talked Trump out of that idea, the Times reported. NBC News has not independently confirmed the reported disagreement.

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The Justice Department declined to comment. NBC has reached out to Kise for comment.

Meanwhile, Trump filed an emergency request Tuesday asking the Supreme Court to intervene in the case and allow a special master to review classified documents federal agents seized from Trump’s Florida estate. The request came in response to a ruling by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 21 that said the Justice Department could summarize using classified documents taken from Mar-a-Lago in its criminal investigation, but barred the special master from reviewing them.

That part of the federal appeals court’s decision “impairs substantially the ongoing, time-sensitive work of the special master,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “Moreover, any limit on the comprehensive and transparent review of materials seized in the extraordinary raid of a president’s home erodes public confidence in our system of justice.”

The National Archives informed the House Oversight and Reform Committee last week that some records from the Trump White House had still not been turned over in compliance with the Presidential Records Act.

Several days after the FBI searched Trump’s Florida property, a receipt of recovered items showed that agents found a trove of top-secret and other highly classified documents. Federal agents removed 11 sets of classified documents, some of which were labeled secret and top secret.

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