Conservative journalist John Solomon curiously published a bombshell letter late Monday night revealing that “special access program materials” were recovered from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate and that federal investigators had grown highly concerned over potential national security threats.
Solomon, a longtime Trump ally who currently serves as one of the ex-president’s designated liaisons to the National Archives, initially framed the letter as troublesome for President Joe Biden.
According to Solomon, a former Fox News contributor and architect of Trump’s Ukraine conspiracy, the May 10 letter from the national archivist proved the White House instigated the criminal investigation into Trump’s mishandling of classified documents while removing Trump’s executive privilege. In Solomon’s view, this reveals the administration was lying when it said Biden had no prior knowledge of this month’s raid of Trump’s residence.
Yet, while Solomon focused his energy on how this could be seen as Biden trying to use the federal government to eliminate a potential 2024 challenger, the letter itself showed that Trump was knowingly in possession of hundreds of pages of top secret material—some of which were among the most classified in government.
Additionally, the correspondence between NARA and Trump’s legal team highlights the ex-president’s resistance in sharing those documents with the Department of Justice.
“As you are no doubt aware, NARA had ongoing communications with the former President’s representatives throughout 2021 about what appeared to be missing Presidential records, which resulted in the transfer of 15 boxes of records to NARA in January 2022,” National Archivist Debra Wall wrote to Trump attorney Evan Corcoran. “In its initial review of materials within those boxes, NARA identified items marked as classified national security information, up to the level of Top Secret and including Sensitive Compartmented Information and Special Access Program materials.”
Wall also noted that while NARA received the boxes of documents in January, the FBI didn’t review any of the documents until May due to an extended back-and-forth with Trump’s legal team. Eventually, according to Wall, the DOJ asked Biden to give the archives permission to hand the material to investigators and override Trump’s claims of executive privilege. Furthermore, Wall stated that Biden then gave her permission to make decisions regarding Trump’s executive privilege over the document.
“I have therefore decided not to honor the former President’s ‘protective’ claim of privilege,” Wall stated. “For the same reasons, I have concluded that there is no reason to grant your request for a further delay before the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community begin their reviews. Accordingly, NARA will provide the FBI access to the records in question, as requested by the incumbent President, beginning as early as Thursday, May 12, 2022.”
Legal experts and reporters were dumbstruck over Solomon’s release of the letter—especially since it also seems to knock down Team Trump’s previous claims that Trump had a “standing order” to declassify any sensitive documents he had removed from the Oval Office. (A statement that was first reported via Solomon himself, it should be noted.)
“The May 10 letter from NARA is damning to former President Trump on any number of levels—not the least of which is the lack of any reference to a claim by Trump’s representatives that he had *declassified* any of the classified materials that were quite specifically at issue,” University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck tweeted Monday night.
National security lawyer Bradley Moss said it was ironic that “Trump’s media guy shows how NARA was bending over backwards for Trump before it finally gave the FBI access to the classified records,” wondering if Solomon realizes “how bad that letter is for” the ex-president.
“I'm trying to figure out why John Solomon thought this letter would help Trump,” former appellate defender Teri Kanefield wrote on Twitter. “I'm stumped.”
Politico reporter Kyle Cheney, meanwhile, called the letter “extraordinarily damning for Trump team,” adding that it “confirms there was ‘special access program’ level material found in files at Mar-a-Lago.” Cheney also pointed out that while Trump associates claimed this was proof of “Biden White House meddling,” it actually shows “officials expressing extreme alarm about national security damage based on records being held by Trump.”
The New York Times’ star Trumpworld reporter Maggie Haberman added that it was “confusing to assess how this letter helps Trump” considering that it confirmed the Times’ reporting that “highly restricted information” was recovered from Mar-a-Lago.
Solomon, however, remains convinced that the public will actually be more disturbed that the Biden White House didn’t just give Trump a free pass when it came to taking home a trove of classified docs.
“I think most Americans are going to be troubled to find out the current president siccing the FBI on the former president,” Solomon said on ex-Trump strategist Steve Bannon’s show on Tuesday. “And I think that’s the way these documents read when you look at them.”