A nearly 40-page late-night filing from the US Department of Justice suggests that Donald Trump and his legal team sought to conceal and remove sensitive government documents at the former president’s Florida compound, “likely” in an effort to “obstruct the government’s investigation” into his handling of hundreds of papers he took with him after leaving office.
One of Mr Trump’s attorneys signed a letter on 3 June testifying that all materials stored at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home were turned over to federal law enforcement.
After receiving a grand jury subpoena to return dozens of records in May, the letter certified that “any and all” documents were accounted for.
The person believed to have signed that sworn document is Christina Bobb, who met FBI agents when they descended on Mar-a-Lago on 8 August and then signed a receipt for property seized during the execution of the FBI search warrant.
Ms Bobb – a former anchor for the far-right, explicitly pro-Trump One America News Network, whose coverage was central to elevating baseless election fraud conspiracy theories – told Fox News host Laura Ingraham a few days after the search that the former president’s team had “turned over everything that we found, that we had”.
More than 320 classified documents have been recovered by investigators at Mar-a-Lago, according to the Justice Department. Twenty-eight boxes and 100 documents were seized during the search on 8 August.
Mr Trump and his legal team have repeatedly claimed in court filings and media appearances that they have cooperated fully with the Justice Department in its months-long probe. In appearances with far-right media in the days after the search, Ms Bobb insisted there was “nothing there” in what was recovered.
But the latest filing from federal prosecutors claims that Mr Trump’s team did not allow agents to verify what Ms Bobb had sworn in the affidavit.
“The former president’s counsel explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained,” they wrote.
They also noted that a folder from that June meeting held 38 documents marked as classified at levels up to top secret, and added that Mr Trump’s lawyers “offered no explanation as to why boxes of government records, including 38 documents with classification markings, remained at the premises … nearly one-and-a-half years after the end of the administration”.
Who is Christina Bobb?
Ms Bobb served in the United States Marine Corps as a Judge Advocate before joining the US Department of Homeland Security under then-President Trump’s administration.
She is best known for her appearances on One America News, where she covered – and worked closely with, raised money for and sought to squash media coverage of – a partisan-driven “audit” of 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County, Arizona.
Ms Bobb promoted election-related conspiracy theories on the network and raised more than $600,000 through her nonprofit organisation for Arizona Republicans’ review of county election results by the now-defunct firm Cyber Ninjas.
A concluding report found no such evidence of widespread fraud and instead found Mr Biden won by a slightly larger margin than initial results.
She also joined Mr Trump’s legal team in a spurious bid to overturn the entire 2020 election alongside attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, including advancing the bogus “alternate electors” conspiracy, according to The New York Times.
Ms Bobb left OAN in March to work for Save America, a political organisation connected to Mr Trump.
She also is among a group of lawyers working for the former president who were subpoenaed by the House select committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol, fuelled in part by Mr Trump’s baseless voter fraud narrative.
On 3 June, Jay Bratt – the Justice Department’s chief of the counterespionage section of the national security division – met with two Trump lawyers, including Ms Bobb, at Mar-a-Lago to retrieve any remaining classified materials on the property, according to The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Mr Bratt and other officials were given a collection of documents, and Trump attorney Evan Corcoran drafted a statement, which was signed by Ms Bobb, the custodian of the documents, according to The Times, to assert that all classified material had been returned.
A 38-page document filed on 30 August responded to Mr Trump’s request for a so-called “special master” to review documents seized by the FBI on 8 August. Prosecutors argued that the former president “lacks standing to seek judicial relief or oversight … because those records do not belong to him”.
Prosecutors also said a so-called “filter team” already has reviewed the files for any material that can be considered protected under attorney-client privileges, and stressed that Mr Trump no longer is protected by executive privilege because is not the president.