The Justice Department subpoenaed Trump for the return of missing classified documents in the spring before sending FBI agents to Mar-a-Lago to search for them.
The subpoena suggests the DOJ tried to obtain those documents long before the politically explosive step of an unannounced search of the Trump home and members-only club.
Two people briefed on the classified documents indicated that they were so sensitive in nature, and related to national security, that the Justice Department had to act.
The subpoena is being used by Trump allies to suggest that TFG was cooperating with the DOJ to return the documents, and that the search was unjustified.
The subpoena factored into a visit that Jay Bratt, the Justice Department’s top counterintelligence official, made with a small group of other federal officials to Mar-a-Lago weeks later, in early June, one of the people said.
In June officials met with a Trump lawyer, Evan Corcoran, and examined a basement area at Mar-a-Lago where material from the White House had been stored.
Bratt then e-mailed Corcoran a few days later, asking him to further secure the stored material with a stronger padlock. At this time they additionally subpoenaed surveillance footage from the club, specifically from areas where they believed the documents were stored.
During the same time period, investigators were in contact with Trump aides who had some visibility and knowledge of how documents were stored and moved around in the White House.
- One of those aides was Molly Michael, Mr. Trump’s assistant in the outer Oval Office who also went to work for him at Mar-a-Lago.
- Another person they contacted was Derek Lyons, the former White House staff secretary, who no longer worked for Trump but knew the process for handling documents.
Two months passed before approximately two dozen FBI agents appeared at Mar-a-Lago with a warrant.
After hours of searching, they left with several boxes that were not filled to the brim and in at least some cases simply contained sealed envelopes of material that the agents took and were otherwise empty, one person familiar with the search said.
A two-page manifest was left behind by the agents of what was taken, and Trump’s team has declined to disclose the contents of the search warrant. A number of sources are seeking in federal court to have it unsealed, including the New York Times.