The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) reportedly contradicted a White House claim that President Joe Biden had no advance knowledge of the FBI's Aug. 8 raid at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon granted the Trump team's request for a special master in the legal dispute between Trump and the Justice Department.
Judge Cannon also identified a springtime letter from the National Archives to Trump's legal team, with the conclusion reading, "NARA will provide the FBI access to the records in question, as requested by the incumbent President, beginning as early as Thursday, May 12, 2022."
In the weeks after the FBI visit to Trump's Florida home, White House officials have denied any prior knowledge of the raid on a former U.S. president.
The issue of foreknowledge comes into play because Trump and his allies have alleged that political animosity led to the raid. Trump is widely seen as a frontrunner in the early jockeying for position in the 2024 presidential campaign, and has said political enemies are trying to derail his plans to again seek the high office by generating scandal.
"No. The president was not briefed ... was not aware of it. No. No one at the White House was given a heads up," White House press secretary Jean-Pierre said on Aug. 9, a day after the FBI raid. "We learned about this just like the public, just as you all were reporting it, through the public reports."
NARA's acting archivist Debra Steidel Wall might have also played a role in the Biden administration perhaps knowing about the Mar-a-Lago raid well in advance.
According to reports, Steidel Wall alerted the White House that an initial review of the records sent to NARA from Mar-a-Lago included "identified items marked as classified national security information."
In her follow-up letter, Steidel Wall wrote: "NARA informed the Department of Justice about that discovery, which prompted the Department to ask the President to request that NARA provide the FBI with access to the boxes at issue so that the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community could examine them. On April 11, 2022, the White House Counsel's Office — affirming a request from the Department of Justice supported by an FBI letterhead memorandum — formally transmitted a request that NARA provide the FBI access to the 15 boxes for its review within seven days."
A day later, according to reports, a DOJ-obtained grand jury subpoena allowed for investigators to visit Mar-a-Lago in June — with the raid taking place in August.
Last month, after word broke of the FBI raid on Trump's Florida estate, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he "personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter."
While appearing on Newsmax last week, Trump attorney Alina Habba told "Spicer & Co." the ongoing circus involving Trump's stored documents has become absurd.
Habba said the Presidential Records Act gives Trump — and every other U.S. president, past and present — the authority to declassify documents while holding office.
And by all accounts, Habba said Trump's team of Florida attorneys had been fully cooperating with NARA officials.
"So, it was a bit of surprise, you can imagine, when the [FBI] raid happened," says Habba.
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