Trump Was Warned to Return Records to Archives, Unsealed Documents Say

In late November 2021, as officials at the National Archives were trying to persuade former President Donald J. Trump to return a trove of records he had taken from the White House when he left office, one of Mr. Trump’s associates advised him in the sharpest terms possible to give the materials back, newly unsealed documents show.

“Whatever you have, give everything back — let them come here and get everything,” the unnamed associate told Mr. Trump, according to an interview the person gave the F.B.I. “Don’t give them a noble reason to indict you, because they will.”

Less than two years later, that admonition proved prescient. Federal prosecutors charged Mr. Trump last June with violating the Espionage Act, accusing him of illegally holding onto more than 30 highly classified documents and obstructing the government’s repeated efforts to retrieve them.

A summary of the associate’s interview with federal agents was among nearly 400 pages of investigative records that were unsealed on Monday by the judge overseeing Mr. Trump’s classified documents case. The associate’s identity was redacted from the summary.

The records had initially been attached as sealed exhibits to a motion Mr. Trump’s lawyers had filed in January asking for additional discovery evidence from the government. But the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, made the exhibits public after ruling two weeks ago that prosecutors could remove from them the names of several potential witnesses to protect their identities and safety.

The unnamed associate who warned Mr. Trump about the threat of an indictment — identified in the unsealed records as Person 16 — described approaching the former president in a card room or library at Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Florida, as Mr. Trump was dressed in golf attire.

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