FBI officials and prosecutors investigating the classified documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago now think ego, not money, was the motivation behind former President Donald Trump’s decision to take them, The Washington Post is reporting.
Federal authorities have been reviewing the recovered documents to see if there is a pattern but so far haven’t been able to connect any nefarious effort by the former president to sell or leverage the government secrets.
Instead, witnesses have suggested to the FBI that Trump just didn’t want to “give up what he believed was his property,” the newspaper said.
The FBI visited Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in August to search for classified documents Trump took from the White House when he left office.
The former president has made bizarre excuses for taking the documents and even suggested the documents seized from his South Florida property were actually planted by the FBI. He also said that he had a “standing order” to take classified files to Mar-a-Lago and that he had the ability to declassify documents just by thinking about it.
On Monday, Trump argued in a legal brief that “the mere [fact] he transported sensitive records to Mar-a-Lago while he was president means he automatically designated them as ‘personal’ while still in office, a designation he says [cannot] be challenged in court.”
Former federal prosecutor Robert Mintz noted to the Post that keeping hundreds of classified documents, including those marked top secret, at a private home “is such a perplexing thing to do” that it makes sense for prosecutors to search for a motive.
However, any decision on whether to charge Trump in the documents case is unlikely to occur before a review by a special master assigned to review the documents is complete.
In a filing unsealed on Monday, the Department of Justice asked the special master to force Trump to verify the inventory through a sworn affidavit, a move Law & Crime notes would “make the former president provide evidence to his insinuations that documents may have been planted.”