The additional evidence comes as investigators have used emails and text messages from a former Trump aide to help understand key moments last year, said the people, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation.
The new details highlightthe degree to which special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the potential mishandling of hundreds of classified national security papers at Trump’s Florida home and private club has come to focus on the obstruction elements of the case —whether the former president took or directed actions to impede government efforts to collect all the sensitive records.
The emphasis on obstruction marks a key distinction so far between the Mar-a-Lago investigation and a separate Justice Department probe into how a much smaller number of classified documents ended up in an insecure office of President Biden’s, as well as his Delaware home. The Trump investigation is much further along than the Biden probe, which began in November and is being overseen by a different special counsel, Robert K. Hur. Biden’s lawyers say they have quickly handed over all classified documents found in Biden’s possession.
The Trump investigation team has spent much of its time focusing on events that happened after Trump’s advisers received a subpoena in May demanding the return of all documents with classified markings, the people familiar with the matter said. Smith is trying to determine if Trump or others mishandled national security documents, and if there is enough evidence to ask a grand jury to charge him with obstructing the investigation.
The Mar-a-Lago investigation is one of four separate criminal probes involving Trump, who is campaigning for another term in the White House. Trump has been indicted by a New York grand jury that heard evidence about money paid to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign. He is set to make his first court appearance in that case Tuesday. He is also being investigated by the Justice Department and a state prosecutor in Georgia over efforts to block Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
An FBI spokesman referred questions to a spokesman for the special counsel, who declined to comment.
Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said in a written statement: “The witch-hunts against President Trump have no basis in facts or law. The deranged special counsel and the DoJ have now resorted to prosecutorial misconduct by illegally leaking information to corrupt the legal process and weaponize the justice system in order to manipulate public opinion and conduct election interference, because they are clearly losing all across the board.”
The statement went on to point to the Biden classified documents probe, as well as the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state, suggesting that conduct there was worse than anything that happened at Mar-a-Lago. “President Trump is the only leader fighting for the Constitution and to protect the American people from being abused by those who want to destroy our system of government,” Cheung said.
In the classified documents case, federal investigators have gathered new and significant evidence that after the subpoena was delivered, Trump looked through the contents of some of the boxes of documents in his home, apparently out of a desire to keep certain things in his possession, the people familiar with the investigationsaid.
Investigators now suspect, based on witness statements, security camera footage, and other documentary evidence, that boxes including classified material were moved from a Mar-a-Lago storage area after the subpoena was served, and that Trump personally examined at least some of those boxes, these people said. While Trump’s team returned some documents with classified markings in response to the subpoena, a later FBI search found more than 100 additional classified items that had not been turned over.
Court papers filed seeking judicial authorization for the FBI to conduct the search of Trump’s home show agents believed that “evidence of obstruction will be found at the premises.”
The application for court approval for that search said agents were pursuing evidence of violations of statutesincluding 18 USC 1519, which makes it a crime to alter, destroy, mutilate or conceal a document or tangible object “with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency.”