From wikipedia

During May 2021, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the federal agency that preserves government records, contacted Trump's representatives regarding missing presidential documents

In January 2022, NARA visited Mar-a-Lago, Trump's Florida residence, and retrieved 15 boxes of documents, gifts, and other government property

As we all know by now, Trump is prone to off-the-cuff communication where he explains things and presents his views.

Since the NARA-Trump drama has been simmering in the news for a while, did Trump say anything between May 2021 and Dec 2021 about whether or not he had official documents in his possession? Did he make claims he did not? Claims that they were his to keep? I know executive privilege got mentioned at times, but I am more interested when that gets combined with details on the nature of the documents justifying that privilege.

First period: May 2021 to January 2022

The reason I have a cutoff in January 2022 is that, once documents were retrieved, their existence was not in question anymore.

Second period: January 2022, after first removal to the raid

Then again, from January 2022 to the latest raid, did he make claims that he had discharged his obligations and did not retain any more documents?

Only looking for direct Trump quotes: whatever social media platform he was using, rally speeches, interviews. He's a prolific speaker after all.

Not indirect remarks, and most certainly not pronouncements by his political foes. Or NARA for that matter. Also out of scope: his considerations about Obama or others holding on to documents. Finally, this isn't about asking his justifications after both removals.

Note: this is about the keeping of documents at home, not about cooperation or not with January 6th inquiries. Clearly, documents about Macron have nothing to do with Jan 6th investigations.

p.s. stating that there was no communication of this type is an answer (but of course someone else might find one).

  • I can't find a single news article on the missing documents prior to February 2022, so I suspect the answer is a clear no. It would be strange for Trump to comment on something that wasn't even public knowledge at the time. The only thing Trump did was file a lawsuit to prevent documents from being given to the January 6th commission. Aug 16, 2022 at 19:33
  • Not sure about that. nsarchive.gwu.edu/news/foia/2021-02-12/… this didn't just come up right now. Granted, a lot of the press coverage is mingled with access to his records for January 6th investigation, but I am only interested in the documents he kept at home. Aug 16, 2022 at 19:40
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    As a rule, Trump only makes public statements when he can stir up a politically useful emotional response; everything else is handled through lawyers, surrogates, or other cut-outs that keep him from being personally involved or accountable. The retrieval of the first 15 boxes was non-controversial; his lawyers handled it, saying and signing whatever needed to be said. He only spoke up about the other 11 boxes because he thought he could gin up anti-FBI sentiment. Aug 16, 2022 at 20:02
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    There were actually 3 removals. Before the FBI raid they also handed some stuff on June 3 foxnews.com/politics/… Aug 16, 2022 at 20:07
  • 2
    The executive privilege bit was to stop NARA from handing over stuff (they already had) to the Jan 6 committee; and that included a lawsuit he filed against the committee and NARA. Aug 16, 2022 at 20:23

1 Answer 1


Well, Trump himself apparently never made the kind of statement you seem to be looking for, i.e. whether he had or hadn't more documents to give to NARA or requested by NARA. That seems to be implicitly left to "NARA should talk to my lawyers/representatives about that", to put words in Trump's mouth.

All of the statements attributed to Trump directly that I could find on this matter are backward looking, meaning about documents already given, e.g. on Feb 10, 2022 his official website has a fairly curious mixture of 3rd person and 1st person statements titled "Statement by Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America". I'm guessing the 3rd person part was added/written by his lawyers or staff; it describes the material (already given) as "boxes that contained letters, records, newspapers, magazines, and various articles" and (besides many claims about former presidents' record keeping, which I'm skipping here, as you explicitly said you don't want to hear those) it says about his own actions:

The papers were given easily and without conflict and on a very friendly basis [...] I have been told I was under no obligation to give this material based on various legal rulings that have been made over the years.

(He doesn't exactly say who told him that.)

News media cited a NYT story that prior to the FBI raid one of Trump's lawyers signed a letter stating that no classified material was present (anymore) at Mar-a-Lago. However, no actual copies of this alleged letter have been made public. As it later turned out (after the raid), Trump lawyers apparently justified that by claiming that the seized materials were subject to a "standing order" that had declassified them. To quote the punchy line of that statement/claim:

The very fact that these documents were present at Mar-a-Lago means they couldn’t have been classified.

Interestingly enough, I can't find this statement on Trump's official site, but the media attributes it to "Trump’s office". (Media very close to Trump has made the same claim, so it's "bipartisan" in that regard. In fact, the journalist running that website, John Solomon, is apparently one of the designated handlers of Trump's records for NARA purposes. He also broke the news about the grand jury subpoena in May.)

OTOH/FWTW on Aug 15 he did write himself on his social media site:

"Oh great! It has just been learned that the FBI, in its now famous raid of Mar-a-Lago, took boxes of privileged 'attorney-client' material, and also 'executive' privileged material, which they knowingly should not have taken," Trump wrote. "By copy of this TRUTH, I respectfully request that these documents be immediately returned to the location from which they were taken."

It was pointed out by some legal commenters (in that linked piece) that he cannot simultaneously claim "executive privilege" and that the document(s) don't belong to NARA now, since he's not president anymore. As far as I could determine, Trump's own lawyers have not commented on this claim. IMHO it is possible Trump misspoke there (and used the wrong legal term) since NARA does allow for an exception for "personal records" to be kept by the former presidents, provided these are separate and conforming to 44 U.S.C. § 2201(3). A day later, the DOJ did return Trump's passports, which he also complained about.

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    Frankly, if you think Trump just shoots his mouth off without thinking in situations like this (i.e. when he might put himself personally in legal jeopardy), you should have seen him plead the 5th 440 times cnbc.com/2022/08/10/… Aug 17, 2022 at 2:40
  • "NARA does allow": it's not in NARA's discretion to allow this. It is permitted by federal statute, not by NARA.
    – phoog
    Aug 17, 2022 at 5:08

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