Former President Donald J. Trump received a subpoena this spring seeking documents that federal investigators believed he had not turned over earlier in the year, when he turned in boxes of materials that he had improperly taken with him when he left the White House, said three people familiar with the matter.
The existence of the subpoena helps flesh out the sequence of events that led to Mr. Trump’s Florida home being raided on Monday by FBI agents looking for classified documents they believe could still be found. find there, even after the efforts of the National Archives and the Ministry of Justice. to make sure it had been returned.
The subpoena suggests the Justice Department tried methods other than a search warrant to account for the material before making the politically explosive decision to dispatch FBI agents unannounced to Mar-a -Lago, Mr. Trump’s home and members-only club.
Two people briefed on the classified documents that investigators say remained at Mar-a-Lago said they were of such a sensitive nature and related to national security that the Justice Department needed to act.
The subpoena was first leaked by John Solomon, a conservative journalist who was also named by Mr Trump as one of his representatives at the National Archives.
The existence of the subpoena is being used by Trump allies to argue that the former president and his team were cooperating with the Justice Department to identify and return the documents in question and that the search was unjustified .
The Justice Department declined to comment. Christina Bobb, a lawyer working for Mr. Trump, did not respond to messages. It’s unclear what specific documents the subpoena requested or what documents the former president might have provided in response.
The subpoena took into account a visit Jay Bratt, the Justice Department’s top counterintelligence official, made with a small group of other federal officials to Mar-a-Lago weeks later. , in early June, one of the people said.
Officials met with Mr. Trump’s attorney, Evan Corcoran. Mr Trump, who likes to play host and has a long history of trying to charm officials who inquire about his practices, also made an appearance. During the visit, officials examined a basement storage area where the former president had stored equipment that came with him from the White House.
A few days after the visit, Mr. Bratt emailed Mr. Corcoran and told him to further secure the remaining documents, which were kept in the storage area with a stronger padlock, said one of the people. The email was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.
More coverage of the FBI search of Trump’s home
Then they subpoenaed surveillance footage from the club, which could have given officials insight into who was entering and leaving the storage area, according to a person familiar with the matter. They received footage specifically of areas of the club where they believed the documents might have been stored, the person said.
During the same period, investigators were in contact with a number of Mr. Trump’s aides who had some visibility into how he stored and moved documents in the White House and who still worked for him, said three people close to the events.
Among those contacted by investigators was Molly Michael, Mr. Trump’s assistant in the Outer Oval Office who also went to work for him at Mar-a-Lago, three people familiar with the outreach said.
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Investigators also contacted Derek Lyons, the former White House staff secretary, whose last day was Dec. 18, 2020 and no longer works for Mr. Trump, with questions about the process for handling the documents, according to a person familiar with the scope.
Federal officials have come to believe that Mr. Trump did not relinquish all of the material that left the White House with him at the end of his term, according to three people familiar with the investigation.
Less than two months later, about two dozen FBI agents, intentionally not wearing the blue windbreakers emblazoned with the agency’s logo usually worn during house searches, appeared at Mar-a-Lago with a warrant.
The club was closed; Mr. Trump was in the New York area; the FBI caught a crew fixing a large fountain, a maid dusting, and a handful of Secret Service agents guarding the compound.
The search warrant was broad, allowing officers to investigate any areas of the club where classified documents might have been stored. They went through the basement, Mr. Trump’s office and at least part of his residence at the club.
After hours of searching, they came away with several boxes that weren’t filled to the brim and in some cases simply contained sealed envelopes of material that officers took that were otherwise empty, a person familiar with the matter said. research.
The person said the FBI left a two-page manifesto of what was taken.
Mr. Trump’s team declined to release the contents of the search warrant. A number of organizations, including the New York Times, are asking the federal court to unseal it.
Some senior Republicans have been warned by Trump allies not to continue to aggressively criticize the Justice Department and FBI over the matter, as more damaging information related to the search may come to light. public.
When Mr. Trump left the White House after refusing to admit he had lost the 2020 election and frantically seeking to stay in power, a number of boxes of equipment made their way from the West Wing to the Florida.
Inside the boxes were a mash of papers, along with items like a raincoat and golf balls, according to people briefed on the contents. The National Archives tried for months after Mr. Trump left to retrieve the material, engaging in lengthy discussions with his officials to acquire what should have been properly stored by the archives under the Presidential Archives Act.
When archivists recovered 15 boxes this year, they uncovered several pages of classified documents and referred the case to the Department of Justice. But officials later came to believe that additional classified material remained at Mar-a-Lago.
Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers said they had been trying to cooperate with federal authorities from the start and had kept an open line of communication.
But other people familiar with federal officials’ efforts to recover the documents said Mr. Trump had resisted returning government property, despite being told he needed it.
Some of Mr. Trump’s informal advisers outside of his direct employment have insisted that he can claim the documents are personal items and keep them.