Earlier this week, journalist John Solomon, who runs the website Justthenews.com, posted a story claiming that letters showing correspondence between the Biden White House and the head of the National Archives proved the White House was well aware of the investigation into former President Donald Trump. At the time the search was carried out, the White House claimed it was unaware of the raid until it was over.
A letter between the acting head of the National Archives, Deborah Wall, and Trump attorney Evan Corcoran dated May 10 reveal that “federal officials had been negotiating with the Trump legal team for months over whether federal agents . . . should be allowed to conduct a national security review” amid Trump’s claims of executive privilege.
According to Fox News, the letter infers that the Biden Administration and White House officials “did not believe a former president could assert executive privilege” over material it believed should be turned over to NARA. Wall would write in the missive that “she had decided not to honor” those claims of executive privilege.
Wall wrote that the materials were classified as national security information. She detailed the materials found within the fifteen boxes that Trump had returned to federal authorities, including 700 pages containing 100 classified documents. Wall specifically says that she “sought guidance from the White House and Justice Department” on how to go forward with the reclaiming of these materials.
Wall added that “President Biden defers to my determination” in whether the documents were considered privilege. The letter would further go on to discuss occasions during which NARA and the White House Counsel’s office debated whether the documents were covered under “executive privilege.” Wall would later hand over any documents she had to the Justice Department.
The media has noted that two major things present as problems with this revelation. First, the Biden Administration explicitly said it had no knowledge that the FBI planned to raid Mar-a-Lago. On August 9, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that President Joe Biden was not briefed on the FBI search. The letter would seem to disprove that idea, or at least that Biden knew there was an ongoing investigation.
Wall’s letter, according to The New York Post, asserts that the Biden White House gave NARA the “go ahead (to) demand more documents.” The Biden Administration was also allegedly aware that the Trump legal team had “been turning over docs regularly.”
Many in the public know there was a June 3 meeting between investigative agents and the Trump legal team, but the Post is claiming that Trump turned over even more documents in June when the team visited. It’s during this visit that the team also asked that the lock be placed on the storage room where these documents were kept. Team Trump complied.
John Solomon and others have pointed out a DC Circuit court case from 2012 holding that the National Archives doesn’t have authority that would allow them to “designate materials as presidential records” nor can the agency “seize control of them.”
Legal scholar Alan Dershowitz pointed out that the Biden Administration could be setting a dangerous legal precedent by waiving claims of executive privilege by his predecessor. Dershowitz told Solomon: “The current president should not be able to waive the executive privilege of a predecessor without the consent of the former president. Otherwise, privilege means nothing. What president will ever discuss anything in private if he knows the man who beat him can and will disclose it.”
Dershowitz added that courts have gone back and forth over how a succeeding president should handle privilege, and only a Supreme Court ruling would effectively decide. However, related Dershowitz, “the best thinking is that an incumbent president cannot waive the right of the previous president.”
Wall detailed how they came to get the Justice Department and the White House involved. After going through the fifteen boxes returned to NARA by the Trump team, NARA went to the Justice Department – who would then go to the president – in order to allow the FBI to examine them.
Trump’s attorneys had conversations with NARA as early as spring 2022 about executive privilege of the documents.
Just fifteen days later, Wall told Corcoran that she had the president’s approval to override any claims of executive privilege.