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WaPo sources: Trump had no nefarious motive for Mar-A-Lago boxes; ego drove him for keepsakes

President Donald J. Trump at the 450th mile of the new border wall, Jan. 12, 2021, near the Texas Mexico border. (Shealah Craighead/White House)
November 17, 2022

Investigators are starting to think former President Donald Trump was motivated by nothing more nefarious than his ego and stubbornness when he hoarded boxes of classified material at his Mar-A-Lago club, anonymous sources have told the Washington Post. The news about an investigation thought to be a serious challenge to Trump’s political standing comes days after he officially launched his third campaign for the presidency.

Witness interviews have not turned up any efforts by Trump to leverage government secrets, and the classified information he clung to after he left office doesn’t offer any business benefit, people familiar with the matter told the Post.

Trump reportedly grew firmer in his stance to keep the documents each time he was asked to give them up, often using profane language to assert that the material was his property, the Post reported.

The Justice Department is investigating three potential crimes committed by the former president and his advisers: mishandling of national security secrets, obstruction, and destruction of government records, according to the Post.

While Trump’s motive to keep the documents doesn’t directly affect whether he committed a crime, it can influence whether prosecutors file charges.

Hundreds of classified documents had already been turned over to the FBI when the agency in August conducted a high-profile raid on Trump’s Mar-A-Lago club in Florida, recovering 103 additional classified documents, including 18 marked top secret, the Post reported.

The most sensitive documents recovered from Mar-A-Lago have described Iran’s missile program, intelligence work targeting China, and a foreign country’s nuclear capabilities, the Post previously reported.

In the Trump administration’s chaotic final days, staffers hastily packed and destroyed records that may have been legally required to be submitted to the National Archives and Records Administration, POLITICO reported.

While in office, the former president reportedly had a habit of swiping papers from his desk into cardboard boxes, where sensitive documents mixed with meaningless papers. 

He also reportedly enjoyed showing off documents in front of guests, including letters from North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, which the Post reported were missing from records submitted to the National Archives.