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National Archives confirms classified material was in boxes at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence

Former president Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The National Archives and Records Administration confirmed in a letter Friday that it found items marked classified in boxes of White House records that former president Donald Trump took with him to his Mar-a-Lago residence.

In a letter to Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), U.S. Archivist David S. Ferriero wrote that officials had “identified items marked as classified national security information within the boxes” at Mar-a-Lago and had been in touch with the Justice Department over the matter.

The Washington Post reported last week that some of the Mar-a-Lago documents were marked as classified, including some at the “top secret” level — a revelation that seemed likely to intensify the legal pressure that Trump or his staffers could face.

Ferriero’s letter, though, provides the first official confirmation of classified material being in the boxes, and it is likely to reignite calls that the Justice Department investigate to see how the information got out of secure facilities, and who might have seen it.

It remains unclear how many classified documents were in the 15 boxes of materials, or what the Justice Department might do. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment, and a spokesman for the Justice Department did not immediately return a message.

Ferriero wrote that the National Archives was conducting an inventory of the boxes’ content and expected to complete that process by Feb. 25. He wrote that the agency also had “asked the representatives of former President Trump to continue to search for any additional Presidential records that have not been transferred to NARA, as required by the Presidential Records Act.”

In a statement, Trump said, “The National Archives did not ‘find’ anything, they were given, upon request, Presidential Records in an ordinary and routine process to ensure the preservation of my legacy and in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.” He added that journalists were “making it seem like me, as the President of the United States, was working in a filing room,” when he was doing other things.

Ferriero wrote that the National Archives had “identified certain social media records that were not captured and preserved by the Trump Administration” and also learned that some White House staffers were conducting official business using non-official messaging accounts and not copying those records on to official channels, as they are required to do.

Trump’s years-long defiance of the Presidential Records Act, which requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president’s official duties, and other unusual record-keeping practices have long drawn scrutiny. But his taking boxes to Mar-a-Lago, which The Post first reported earlier this month, could present him with a legal headache.

When classified documents slip out into the world, that typically sparks an FBI investigation. But prosecutors have a high legal bar to substantiate criminal charges, as they are required to prove someone intentionally mishandled the material or was grossly negligent in doing so.

Trump, as president, would also have had unfettered latitude to declassify material, potentially raising even bigger challenges to bringing a case against him.

During his presidential campaign, Trump railed against his opponent, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, for her handling of classified material, insisting she should be in jail. The FBI investigated Clinton for possibly mishandling classified information in connection with her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, but she was never charged, as officials determined they could not prove she intended to mishandle sensitive material.