Seeking to unearth more information about the boxes of classified documents held at Mar-a-Lago, the FBI has now interviewed former Trump White House attorneys Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin, according to new reports citing anonymous sources on Tuesday.
The development was first reported by The New York Times. The sources said that Philbin was interviewed in the spring. It is not yet clear when Cipollone met with the FBI. The meetings were sparked when the FBI reached out to both men.
On Jan. 19, 2021, a day before Trump left the White House, he appointed a panel of seven officials to serve as his personal liaisons to the National Archives.
Trump appointed Mark Meadows, Cipollone, Philbin, John Eisenberg, Scott Gast, Michael Purpura, and Steven Engel.
Then, on June 19, 2022, he changed up the roster. This time, Trump wrote a letter to the Archives asking that Cipollone and Philbin be removed as his records representatives. In their place, he named Kashyap “Kash” Patel and John Solomon.
In-depth analysis from Washington Post reporter Philip Bump and further analysis from independent journalist Marcy Wheeler explore the “curious” timeline in depth here and here.
When presidents leave office, under the Presidential Records Act, they are required to remit their official documents to the National Archives in full. Former Vice President Mike Pence did this at the end of the Trump administration, according to the Archives, but Trump did not.
When the Archives became aware Trump had yet to hand over all of his records, it was Philbin the institution reached out to. According to the Times, Philbin tried retrieving the documents but was rebuffed by Trump.
“It’s not theirs, it’s mine,” was the refrain often repeated by Trump when officials would bring up the records.
Trump finally turned over 15 boxes of records to the Archives in January, but a subpoena followed five months later for other records believed to be held at his home in Palm Beach, Florida.
By the first week of June, Trump’s attorneys met with officials from the Justice Department and were cooperative. Further, at the meeting one of his attorneys signed a letter stating Trump had returned all materials with classified or confidential demarcations.
Evan Corcoran, Trump’s attorney, told The Wall Street Journal it was at this time that the former president’s team also gave authorities access to surveillance footage from a storage area in Mar-a-Lago.
While Daily Kos could not independently confirm the following detail, it has been widely reported, including by The Wall Street Journal and CNN, that at least one witness to the meeting tipped off law enforcement about the possibility of additional classified materials retained on the property.
Eric Trump, the former president’s son and the executive vice president of the Trump Organization, appeared on Fox News Monday and said his family would release the surveillance footage “at the right time.”
The Times said the FBI has reached out to at least six people who now work for Trump to discuss the records.
Eleven sets of classified records were removed from Mar-a-Lago last week, many of which were deemed “top secret.”
The former president whipped supporters into a frenzy following the search and called on the Department of Justice to make the search warrant public, something Trump could do all on his own but chose not to.
Instead, Attorney General Merrick Garland called Trump’s bluff and asked the court to unseal the warrant.
It confirmed the Justice Department was investigating whether the 45th president broke no fewer than three laws, including the Espionage Act, when he failed to return the documents.