Aides who had worked in Donald Trump’s White House were not surprised this summer when the FBI found highly classified material in boxes at Mar-a-Lago, mixed with news clippings and other items.
They’d seen such haphazard collections before.
During his four years in office, Trump never strictly followed the rules and customs for handling sensitive government documents, according to 14 officials from his administration, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss what they called Trump’s mishandling of classified information.
He took transcripts of his calls with foreign leaders as well as photos and charts used in his intelligence briefings to his private residence with no explanation. He demanded that letters he exchanged with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un be kept close at hand so he could show them off to visitors. Documents that would ordinarily be kept under lock and key mingled with piles of newspaper articles in Trump’s living quarters and in a dining room that he used as an informal office.
Officials and aides who worked in proximity to Trump said they are not sure how more than 300 classified documents ended up at his Mar-a-Lago estate, triggering a lengthy effort to retrieve them that has resulted in a criminal investigation. But in the waning days of his presidency, as Trump grudgingly began to pack up his belongings, he included documents that should have been sent to the National Archives and Records Administration, along with news articles and gifts he received while president, several former officials said.
What those ex-Trump aides and advisers saw in an inventory of items recovered by the FBI in August — classified documents in boxes, stored alongside newspaper and magazine articles, books and gifts — looked to them like the idiosyncratic filing system Trump used in the White House. [Continue reading…]