Exclusive: Special Counsel investigating Trump set to receive 16 records showing he knew process to properly declassify documents

Washington(CNN) The National Archives has knowledgeable former president Donald Trump that it’s set to hand over to special counsel Jack Smith 16 records which present Trump and his high advisers had information of the right declassification process whereas he was president, in accordance to a number of sources.

In a May 16 letter obtained by CNN, appearing Archivist Debra Steidel Wall writes to Trump, “The 16 records in question all reflect communications involving close presidential advisers, some of them directed to you personally, concerning whether, why, and how you should declassify certain classified records.”

The 16 presidential records, which had been subpoenaed earlier this yr, might present essential proof establishing the previous president’s consciousness of the declassification process, a key a part of the criminal investigation into Trump’s mishandling of categorised documents.

The records can also present perception into Trump’s intent and whether or not he willfully disregarded what he knew to be clearly established protocols, in accordance to a supply aware of latest testimony offered to the grand jury by former high Trump officers.

Trump and his allies have insisted that as president, Trump didn’t have to observe a selected process to declassify documents. At a CNN town hall final week Trump repeated the declare that just by eradicating categorised documents from the White House he had declassified them. “And, by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them,” Trump mentioned.

According to the letter, Trump tried to block the particular counsel from accessing the 16 records by asserting a declare of “constitutionally based privilege.” But in her letter, Wall rejects that declare, stating that the particular counsel’s workplace has represented that it “is prepared to demonstrate with specificity to a court, why it is likely that the 16 records contain evidence that would be important to the grand jury’s investigation.”

The particular counsel additionally informed the Archives that the proof is “not practically available from another source.”

The letter goes on to state that the records will likely be handed over on May 24, 2023 “unless prohibited by an intervening court order.”

A supply shut to Trump’s authorized crew informed CNN that the previous president has obtained a number of letters like this from the Archives over the course of the investigation.

Trump’s crew might problem this in court docket, this particular person mentioned, however claimed previously the Archives has handed over documents earlier than the Trump crew has had an opportunity to problem the discharge in court docket.

Trump’s authorized crew wouldn’t reveal what was within the 16 records, however the supply mentioned the previous president’s try to block the particular counsel from accessing them is “more of a strategic fight about constitutional and presidential protections rather than keeping evidence from the special counsel.”

The particular counsel’s workplace and the Archives declined to remark. A Trump spokesperson didn’t reply to a request for remark

Last yr, after the FBI seized classified and top secret documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, the previous president and his allies claimed that Trump had a “standing order” to declassify documents he took from the Oval Office to the White House residence.

But 18 former high Trump administration officers mentioned they by no means heard any such order issued throughout their time working for Trump, telling CNN that the declare was “ludicrous” “ridiculous,” and a “complete fiction.”

NARA’s letter to Trump comes amid a flurry of exercise by Smith’s crew, together with grand jury appearances by former nationwide safety officers who testified that they informed Trump there was a process for a president to declassify materials, in accordance to a supply aware of the matter.

The 16 records might assist federal investigators overcome a major impediment to a possible prosecution of the previous president. While presidents have final declassification authority, the bounds of that authority have not been examined within the courts.

That means the varied claims by Trump and his allies that he declassified materials with out going by way of the usual process can’t be fully dismissed by the Justice Department.

In her letter, Wall says that NARA started looking for related records after receiving a subpoena from Smith’s crew on Jan. 23, 2023. The Archives discovered 104 unclassified documents that matched what federal prosecutors had requested.

When notified that NARA supposed to present these documents to the grand jury, Trump’s authorized crew raised privilege considerations over 81 of these records. The Biden White House was additionally notified however informed NARA the incumbent president wouldn’t assert privilege to block these records from being shared with the grand jury.

The particular counsel was additionally given entry to different records not challenged by the Trump crew.

Ultimately, the particular counsel recognized the 16 records in query as related to the grand jury investigation.

In the CNN city corridor final week, Trump misrepresented the Presidential Records Act, falsely claiming that he was “allowed” to take documents when he left workplace.

In actuality, the Presidential Records Act supplies that as quickly as a president leaves workplace, the National Archives turns into the authorized custodian of the president’s records, which belong to the general public.

“I had every right to under the Presidential Records Act,” Trump mentioned when requested by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins why he took documents when he left the White House. “You have the Presidential Records Act. I was there and I took what I took and it gets declassified,” he added.

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