Aug 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Bolton: Trump kept "piles and piles" of documents in White House

Photo of John Bolton standing behind Donald Trump as Trump is being interviewed

Then-President Trump and national security adviser John Bolton during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in 2019. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton told Reuters on Wednesday that former President Trump had a tendency to accumulate large amounts of paper, including "piles and piles" of documents inside the White House dining room.

Why it matters: Bolton's comments come after the FBI's search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence reportedly revealed that Trump had taken boxes of classified information to the estate.

What he's saying: Bolton, who served under Trump from 2018 to 2019, noted in particular that several letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended up in the White House without following protocols for proper screenings. He said he was able to screen and secure some of the letters but not all.

  • "We weren't successful on the other letters, for reasons I'm not entirely clear about," Bolton told Reuters. "He kept them in a file in one of the secretary's offices. ... And I know he showed them to people."'
  • Some of Kim's letters to Trump were retrieved from Mar-a-Lago earlier this year after it was revealed that the former president had taken what he once called "love letters" to his estate instead of handing them over to the National Archives and Records Administration.
  • It's unclear what other materials made it into the White House without prior screenings.

Worth noting: Bolton also said that while he agrees with the Department of Justice's reasons for keeping the FBI's Mar-a-Lago search affidavit sealed, the DOJ may not have a choice "given the firestorm politically that they face."

Meanwhile, Trump has called on the FBI to return "privileged 'attorney-client' material" and claims he had a "standing order" dictating that documents taken from the Oval Office to his residence were "deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them."

The big picture: A federal court is set to hear arguments Thursday from media outlets who are pushing the DOJ to release additional sealed records related to the FBI search, including the affidavit.

  • Representatives for Trump did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.
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