By Tom Ozimek
Documents obtained by America First Legal Foundation (AFLF) suggest that the Biden White House was involved in the FBI raid on former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida by way of a “special access request,” calling into question statements by Biden administration officials that the White House did not interfere and did “not get involved.”
Specifically, the AFLF documents call into question the Biden administration’s claim that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) made a “referral” to the FBI over the purportedly classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence without any involvement from the White House.
“New NARA records obtained through America First Legal’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Mar-a-Lago raid further confirmed that the FBI obtained access to these records through a ‘special access request’ from the Biden White House on behalf of the Department of Justice (DOJ),” AFLF said in a statement.
The FBI executed a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence on Aug. 8, 2022, to retrieve purportedly classified documents that Trump said he had declassified using presidential powers.
In the immediate aftermath of the raid, Biden administration aides were cited in media reports as saying they were “stunned by the development and learned of it from Twitter.”
Days later, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that “the president was not briefed, was not aware of it, no. No one at the White House was given a heads-up” about the raid.
Biden and other White House officials found out about the search of Trump’s property through public reports, she insisted.
“We learned about this just like the American people did,” she said.
But AFLF said in a letter to NARA Acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall (pdf) that Biden administration assertions that the White House had no knowledge about the search “is surprising given the evidence showing that the FBI obtained access to these records through a special access request from the Biden White House on behalf of the Department of Justice.”
Trump has accused the White House of having prior knowledge of the raid and alleged that the DOJ and FBI had carried out a politically motivated attack against him.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the DOJ, NARA, and the White House for comment but did not receive a reply by publication.
NARA ‘Not Been Involved’?
In correspondence to Congress, NARA said that after it became aware of classified information in 15 boxes of presidential records provided by Trump in January 2022, its staff communicated with DOJ and then were not involved in the investigation.
The Archives said in a letter (pdf) to Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) that in January 2022—months before the FBI raid—NARA had referred the issue of the Trump documents to the DOJ and since then it “has not been involved in the DOJ investigation or any searches that it has conducted.”
Yet the documents obtained by AFLF suggest otherwise.
“Notably, despite the Archives’ claim that it had ‘not been involved in the DOJ investigation,’ the documents show that the Archives’ official responsible for administering all access requests for Presidential records, John Laster, was involved in preparing the 15 boxes for FBI review as late as August 23, 2022,” AFLF wrote in its letter to Wall.
In the letter to NARA staff (pdf), Wall said that the DOJ had asked Biden to request that NARA provide the FBI with access to the 15 boxes and that on April 11, 2022, the White House Counsel’s Office formally transmitted that request.
“At issue was the request of the White House, on behalf of the Department of Justice (DOJ), that NARA provide the FBI with access to the 15 boxes, so that the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community could examine them,” Wall wrote.
‘Via The Biden White House’
Separately, an email obtained by AFLF from NARA general counsel Gary Stern to Wall, Laster, and others, indicates that on April 12, 2022, Stern sent an email to Trump representatives concerning the DOJ’s “special access request” for the 15 boxes, with the request coming “via the Biden White House.”
“This stunning revelation suggests that NARA was misleading Congress about the White House’s role in the shocking raid of President Trump’s home, and the fact that the Biden White House was acting ‘on behalf of’ the DOJ raises significant legal concerns,” AFLF said in a statement.
In a letter dated Oct. 25, 2022 (pdf), Wall wrote to several Congressional representatives stating that NARA received the 15 boxes of documents from Trump on Jan. 18, 2022. After finding that they contained classified national security information, NARA then consulted with its Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the OIG “subsequently referred the matter to DOJ on February 9, 2022.”
AFLF insists that if the OIG had indeed acted independently in making a referral to the FBI, then Laster would not have been involved in the FBI’s review of the 15 boxes in his role as the Director of the White House Liaison Division.
“Similarly, the FBI affidavit before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida that provided the probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant against Mar-a-Lago on August 8, 2022, stated, ‘[on February 9, 2022] the Special Agent in Charge of NARA’s Office of the Inspector General sent the NARA Referral via email to DOJ,’ AFLF said in its letter to Wall.
“However, the evidence is that the Biden White House and the Department of Justice coordinated to obtain the Trump records, and perhaps create a pretext for a law enforcement raid, by way of a ‘special access request,’” AFLF alleged.
The White House has repeatedly insisted it was not briefed or given advance notice about the FBI raid.
Days after the White House press secretary told reporters that Biden had not been briefed on the FBI search, she reiterated that position in an interview on ABC “This Week.”
“We do not interfere. We do not get briefed. We do not get involved,” Jean-Pierre told the outlet.
Asked to comment on a contention put forward by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) that “the FBI raid of President Trump is a complete abuse and overreach of its authority,” the White House press secretary said that is “not true.”
“This is not about politicizing anything,” she added.
Biden himself said weeks later that he had not been personally briefed on the DOJ investigation into Trump nor the documents.
“I have not personally spoken to anyone on that—in that regard,” Biden said at the time in an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” program. “I’m sure my administration is aware of all of that, and so is the National Security Council. But I have not.”
In the raid on Trump’s property, FBI agents removed boxes of materials and other items, including some listed as classified.
Unsealed warrant documents indicate that the government believes Trump violated a number of laws, including ones related to the handling of defense materials.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith to handle the probe into the documents.
AFLF has vowed to continue investigating the purported White House involvement in the raid on Trump.
Reed Rubinstein, senior counselor and director of oversight and investigations at AFLF, said in a statement that the evidence suggests that “Biden officials in the Executive Office of the President and the Department of Justice unlawfully abused their power and then lied about it to the American people.”
“This government, it seems, acknowledges no limits on its power to harass, intimidate, and silence its political opponents.”