"The FBI investigation into top-secret government information discovered at Mar-a-Lago is zeroing in on the question of whether former President Donald Trump’s team criminally obstructed the probe. A new document alleges that government records had been concealed and removed and that law enforcement officials were misled about what was still there." —Eric Tucker
While there is certainly no guarantee that Mr. Trump—or anyone on his team for that matter—will face criminal charges, the man is facing the most severe legal threat he has in his career.
"The allegation does not necessarily mean that Trump or anyone else will ultimately face charges. But it could pose the most direct legal threat to Trump and those in his orbit, in part because the Justice Department has historically regarded obstruction as an aggravating factor that tilts in favor of bringing criminal charges involving the mishandling of classified information." —Eric Tucker
Officials attempted to recover the documents earlier this year and were assured by Mr. Trump and his team that every record had been returned, which was false. That is the main concern.
"The latest Justice Department motion in the case is focused less on the removal last year of classified information from the White House to Mar-a-Lago and more on the events of this past spring and summer. That’s when law enforcement officials tried — unsuccessfully — to get all documents back and were assured, falsely, that everything had been accounted for after a 'diligent search.' The Justice Department issued a subpoena in May for the records, and officials visited Mar-a-Lago on June 3 to collect them. When they got there, Tuesday’s department document says, they were handed by a Trump lawyer a 'single Redweld envelope' containing documents." —Eric Tucker
The lie was an extensive one.
"A custodian for the records presented a sworn certification to the officials saying that 'any and all responsive documents' to the subpoena had been located. A Trump lawyer said that all records that had come from the White House had been held in one location — a storage room — and there were none in any private space or other spot at the house. The FBI obtained a search warrant to return on Aug. 8." —Eric Tucker
Efforts were probably made to obstruct the investigation.
"Officials had 'developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,' the new Justice Department filing says." —Eric Tucker
Clearly—the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago proved that law enforcement had been misled and a large number of classified documents had remained in the former President's possession.
"In their August search, agents found classified documents not only in the storage room but also in the former president’s office — including three classified documents found not in boxes but in office desks, according to the Justice Department. In some instances, the agents and attorneys conducting the review of seized documents required additional clearances since the material was so highly classified." —Eric Tucker
The Justice Department is now looking into whether anyone committed obstruction.
"The Justice Department has stated that, besides investigating crimes related to the mishandling of national defense information and other documents, it is also looking into whether anyone committed obstruction." —Eric Tucker
If Mr. Trump has indeed committed obstruction, he could most certainly face criminal charges.
"Obstruction matters because it’s one of the factors investigators look for in weighing whether to bring charges. For instance, in his July 2016 announcement that the FBI would not be recommending criminal charges against Hillary Clinton in an investigation involving handling of her emails, FBI Director James Comey cited the absence of obstruction as one of the reasons." —Eric Tucker
The Department of Justice has opposed the former President's request for a special master to review the documents.
"The purpose of the Tuesday night filing was to oppose a request from the Trump legal team for a special master to review the documents. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is to hear arguments on the matter Thursday. Trump’s lawyers said in a Wednesday night filing that a special master was needed in the name of fairness, saying that 'left unchecked, the DOJ will impugn, leak, and publicize selective aspects of their investigation.'" —Eric Tucker