Former White House Lawyer Told Trump to Return Classified Materials in 2021: Report

·3 min read
Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan on July 19, 2021 in New York City
Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan on July 19, 2021 in New York City

James Devaney/GC Images Donald Trump

As the investigation into Donald Trump's storage of classified documents continues, The New York Times reports that the former president was warned about his handling of secret materials back in 2021 — by a former White House attorney.

The former president's Mar-a-Lago home was searched by federal agents in August, with the warrant used by the FBI to search the property revealing that agents were investigating Trump for removal or destruction of records, obstruction of an investigation and for potentially violating the Espionage Act.

According to a property receipt that was unsealed after the search, agents retrieved 11 sets of classified documents, including some marked "top secret" that are only meant to be viewed at secure government facilities, during the search.

According to Times journalist Maggie Haberman, Trump was warned about the legal repercussions of holding on to classified government materials in 2021, during a meeting with former White House attorney Eric Herschmann.

The alleged conversation, Haberman writes, "is the latest evidence that Mr. Trump had been informed of the legal perils of holding onto material."

RELATED: Biden Questioned 'How Anyone Could Be That Irresponsible' After Hearing About Documents Found at Mar-a-Lago

The search of Mar-a-Lago came after numerous attempts by the federal government to track down missing documents from Trump's time in office.

In January, after being contacted by the National Archives and Records Administration, Trump and his associates sent 184 documents from Mar-a-Lago to the archives. Then, in early June, FBI agents and a senior Justice Department national security supervisor reportedly visited the resort in regards to boxes of classified documents sitting in the property's basement. A Trump attorney handed over 38 documents at the time, and officials followed up with instructions to install a stronger lock on the storage room door.

Trump reportedly assured officials that he had no more classified materials, but weeks later, "someone familiar with the stored papers told investigators there may be still more classified documents at the private club," per The Wall Street Journal.

In August, agents came back with the warrant, ultimately leaving with more than 100 documents.

RELATED: A Timeline of the DOJ's Investigation into How Donald Trump Has Handled Classified Documents

Trump has said documents stored at Mar-a-Lago had been declassified by him, though it's unclear if he undertook any formal process to declassify them. The claim has also been refuted by more than a dozen former Trump administration officials.

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The Department of Justice and Trump's legal team are currently at odds over the documents, after a Special Master appointed in the case asked Trump's attorneys to explain how the items were declassified.

Earlier this week, the former president's attorneys pushed back on the Special Master's request for further clarification, arguing in a court filing that the information could potentially be used as a defense if criminal charges were to arise in the case.