Donald Trump’s legal team has requested that the House Intelligence Committee intervene in the DOJ probe into the former President’s retention of classified documents. Trump’s attorneys believe that the DOJ is not the appropriate agency to conduct investigations about the mishandling or spillage of classified material. His attorneys stated that belief in a letter to Committee Chairman Mike Turner (R-Ohio) on April 26.
This letter recommends that the DOJ stand down and the intelligence community conduct an appropriate investigation and provide a full report to the Committee and other Senate counterparts.
The letter was also forwarded to the remainder of Congress’s intelligence-focused Gang of Eight. One of them is Turner, along with Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.); Vice Chair Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif. ); House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).
The letter claims NARA has become overtly political and refused to assist President Trump’s transition team with archival materials. The agency’s chief counsel, Gary Stern, is a registered Democrat. Stern would have been at the center of any legal decision-making regarding the classified information involving Trump and Biden. The DOJ’s counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt was a key decision-maker in the Trump investigation.
National Archives Public and Media Communications disputed that NARA rejected to give archive help to Trump’s staff. In a February 2023 letter addressed to Rep. James Comer, because of his position as Chair for the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, Stern shifted his position on whether NARA assisted the White House. During an interview with the Committee on January 31, he told them a different tale.
Stern wrote in February that during the interview on January 31, 2023, he recollected that NARA had not provided such assistance. Following the interview, he consulted colleagues and was informed that NARA sent staff to the White House to assist with the moving of physical records (including artifacts) in the final weeks of the Trump Administration. To transport the records from the White House complex to the National Archives, NARA employed a DOD [Department of Defense] team.
In the letter, Trump’s legal team claims to have learned why classified materials ended up in boxes at Mar-a-Lago. The White House’s institutional practices for handling classified materials, including declassification procedures, are incompatible with how the intelligence community and military handle classified materials. This is due to the packing processes of the staff, not any criminal intent by President Trump, their letter adds.
A simple sweep of the President’s desk and other areas resulted in all documents being placed in boxes. NARA’s assistance in February was logistical and did not include records management advice, according to Stern’s letter. According to NARA, the packing of boxes left in the White House and transfer of records from the White House to NARA are managed and controlled by White House and NSC officials.
Trump’s attorneys argue that finding sensitive information at the homes of former Vice President Mike Pence and President Joe Biden points to a problem with White House policies that span administrations.
The letter questions the DOJ’s decision to issue a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. NARA, established in 1984 as “an independent establishment in the executive branch,” made that recommendation. Attorneys write that the matter should have been referred to the ODNI, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or the House Intelligent Committee, and not to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
When the DOJ improperly intervened in an administrative investigation regarding the mishandling or spillage of classified documents, the matter was steered in the wrong direction, and because of the current political climate, the DOJ and Attorney General Merrick Garland decided to pursue the matter as a criminal investigation, according to the letter.
The letter from Trump’s legal team describes the DOJ’s approach to Trump’s case, including its grand jury subpoena and search warrant, as “aggressive combativeness.”