U.S. investigates Trump's removal of White House records to Florida

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Washington Township, Michigan, U.S. April 2, 2022. REUTERS/Emily Elconin

WASHINGTON, April 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department has launched an early-stage investigation into former President Donald Trump's removal of official presidential records to his Mar-a-Lago Florida estate, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The investigation comes after the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration in February notified Congress that it had recovered about 15 boxes of White House documents from Trump's Florida residence, some of which contained classified materials.

The U.S. House Oversight Committee at that time announced it was expanding an investigation into Trump's actions and asked the Archives to turn over additional information. Trump previously confirmed that he had agreed to return certain records to the Archives, calling it "an ordinary and routine process." read more

On Thursday, Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich blasted the Justice Department investigation and called it a sham.

"The Democrats, who are failing tremendously at governing, continue to weaponize every branch of government with sham investigations," Budowich said. "Their partisan distractions won't stop President Trump and his endorsed candidates from sweeping Democrats out of power this November."

A federal law called the U.S. Presidential Records Act requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president's official duties.

The Justice Department investigation is still in a very early stage, the source said, and it is unclear if it could lead to any criminal charges. The source spoke on condition of anonymity.

The investigation was reported earlier by the Washington Post.

News about the Justice Department probe came to light after Carolyn Maloney, the House Oversight Committee's Democratic chair, earlier on Thursday sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to complain that the department was stonewalling her congressional probe.

In her letter to Garland, Maloney cited March 28 correspondence from the Archives to her committee in which the agency informed her that "based on our consultation with the Department of Justice, we are unable to provide any comment" about the contents of the boxes located in Mar-a-Lago.

She asked Garland to provide a written explanation by April 14 on whether the department will give the Archives a green light to cooperate with the congressional investigation.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, Alexandra Ulmer and Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham and Paul Grant

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Thomson Reuters

U.S. National Affairs Correspondent who spent four years in Venezuela covering President Maduro's administration and the humanitarian crisis and has also reported from Chile, Argentina and India. She was Reuters’ Reporter of the Year in 2015 and a leading member of a team that won an Overseas Press Club award for best coverage of Latin America in 2018.