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Justice Department is investigating Trump's possible mishandling of government secrets

The Mar-a-Largo resort.
The Mar-a-Largo resort.

The Justice Department is conducting an investigation that's in "very early stages" into possible mishandling of government secrets by former President Donald Trump, a source familiar with the matter told NPR, after top-secret papers were found at his Florida property, Mar-a-Lago.

The matter had already been under investigation by the House Oversight Committee, whose chairwoman, Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., is pushing for more answers and access to information.

Word of the Justice probe does not come as a surprise to former Justice Department officials like David Laufman, who told NPR in February that "it would be a gross departure from a long line of precedent to not even initiate an investigation."

Legal experts have debated whether the former president, who held the power to classify and declassify government secrets, might face legal jeopardy. Even if Trump is insulated from liability, people who helped pack and transport the documents may not be, the experts said.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) said earlier this year that it had retrieved 15 boxes of White House records and other items stored at Trump's Florida property and representatives of the former president were searching for any additional records that, by law, should have been turned over to the National Archives when Trump left office in January 2021.

The Washington Post first reported that the Justice Department is looking into the matter. Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed two months ago that secrets had been found among Trump's papers and that the National Archives had referred the issue for DOJ investigation.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.