Pat A. Cipollone and Patrick F. Philbin, White House counsel and deputy under President Donald J. Trump, were questioned by the FBI about boxes of sensitive documents that were stored at Mr. Trump in Florida after leaving. , said three people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Philbin are the most senior people who have worked for Mr. Trump and are known to have been questioned by investigators after the National Archives referred the case to the Justice Department this year.
Mr. Philbin was questioned in the spring, according to two of the people familiar with the matter, as investigators contacted members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle to find out how 15 boxes of equipment – some marked as classified – made their way. at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. It was unclear when Mr. Cipollone was interviewed.
Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Philbin were Mr. Trump’s representatives to deal with the National Archives; they were appointed to the positions shortly before the president’s term ended in January 2021. At one point, after National Archives officials realized they had no documents from Trump’s White House , which must be kept under the Presidential Records Act, they contacted Mr. Philbin for help in returning them.
A spokesperson for Mr. Philbin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr Philbin tried to help the National Archives recover the material, said two of the people familiar with the discussions. But the former president repeatedly resisted the pleas of his advisers.
“It’s not theirs, it’s mine,” say several advisers, Mr. Trump told them.
The former president returned 15 boxes of documents to the National Archives in January, but the Justice Department issued a subpoena in May for documents still in his home. On June 3, counterintelligence officials from the Justice Department’s National Security Division traveled to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve the remaining documents with classified markings.
At that time, at least one attorney for Trump signed a statement saying the material bearing the classified marks had been returned, according to four people familiar with the document. But officials then used a subpoena to get surveillance footage from the hallway outside a storage room at Mar-a-Lago and saw something that alarmed them. They also received information from at least one witness who indicated that more material may remain at the residence, people familiar with the investigation said.
Mr. Philbin is among eight people who currently worked or worked for Mr. Trump who have been contacted by the FBI since the formation of a grand jury this year. Investigators also interviewed Derek Lyons, a former White House staff secretary.
Mr. Lyons’ last day in the White House was December 18, 2020, meaning he was unaware of how the last boxes were packed as Mr. Trump prepared to leave. But he had information about the flow of paper at the White House and how the former president handled the material.
The FBI has contacted about half a dozen people who currently work for Mr. Trump and who may know what documents he may still have in his possession.