An unknown associate of Donald Trump advised the former president to return classified documents held at Mar-A-Lago almost a year before the FBI searched his Florida home, according to legal filings from prosecutors unsealed Monday, detailing multiple warnings given to the president years before he was indicted on charges of willfully retaining national security materials.

Key Facts

The associate, identified as “Person 16” in the unsealed summary of an interview with the FBI, learned Trump had not returned presidential records to the National Archives after leaving office and discovered “multiple people” tried to convince the former president to return the documents, according to the filing.

Trump was told by the associate in November 2021 (before the August 2022 FBI search or Trump’s June 2023 indictment) to “give everything back” and that Trump shouldn’t give prosecutors a good reason to indict him—a request to which the former president gave a “weird ‘you’re the man’ type of response,” the filing said.

The associate could not say they had a reason to believe the boxes were intentionally kept by Trump—though they did know only 15 of the 50 boxes of documents were returned to the National Archive, “so a decision was made not to return all of them,” according to the filing.

The associate also suggested one of Trump’s children was asked to talk to the former president about giving the documents back.

The associate asked FBI agents not to record their interview for fear it might be a “risk for him in the Trump world.”

Representatives for Trump didn’t immediately respond to Forbes’ request for comment.

Surprising Fact

The filings unsealed Monday also revealed the FBI codenamed its Trump classified documents probe “Plasmic Echo.”

Key Background

Federal prosecutors charged Trump with illegally holding sensitive documents at Mar-A-Lago after leaving office and obstructing an investigation into their whereabouts. Ahead of the FBI’s unprecedented search of Mar-A-Lago, prosecutors allege Trump was repeatedly asked to return all classified documents in his possession and was subpoenaed at one point, but he ignored their requests. Trump has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges. The former president has unsuccessfully attempted to throw out the case on grounds of presidential immunity and that the Presidential Records Act granted him protection from prosecution. Judge Aileen Cannon has not ruled in Trump’s favor on either request, but the Supreme Court is reviewing his immunity argument in a separate criminal case for 2020 election interference. It is unclear when the trial for the classified documents will be held. It was initially scheduled to be held in May, though it now looks likely it will be conducted after the November election. Trump is currently on trial in a New York case, where he’s been charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to reimburse his fixer for hush money.

Further Reading

Special Counsel In Trump’s Classified Documents Case Rejects Judge’s Request For Jury Instructions—Says It’s Based On ‘Fundamentally Flawed’ Premise (Forbes)

Trump In Court For Classified Documents Hearing—Here’s How It Could Affect Trial (Forbes)

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