WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department this week denied a request from the House Oversight Committee to release the contents of files former President Donald Trump took to his Florida residence after leaving the White House, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The move could be a setback for Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee as it steps up its investigation into Trump’s handling of sensitive and even classified information during his tenure as president and after he leaves the House. White. It remains unclear what implications the decision could have for the panel’s investigation, which was announced in March.
The Justice Department’s decision is part of an effort to protect confidential information that could compromise an ongoing investigation, according to the person, who was not authorized to discuss the case by name and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The development was first reported on Tuesday by The Washington Post.
The National Archives referred the issue of Trump’s handling of those records to the Justice Department earlier this year. For this reason, the DOJ is asking the National Archives not to share information directly related to it, including the contents of the 15 boxes Trump took to his Mar-a-Lago residence.
The notice to the committee comes days after its chair, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D.N.Y., accused the Justice Department of “obstructing” the panel’s broader investigation by preventing the release of information from the National Archives.
The Justice Department has not officially announced that it is investigating Trump’s handling of the cases, but letters between the committee and the department appear to indicate investigators are taking steps.
A Justice Department spokesperson declined a request for comment on Tuesday.
Additionally, the FBI has taken steps to begin investigating the potential mishandling of classified information related to the documents in the boxes, according to two other people familiar with the investigation who were not authorized to discuss it by name and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. It was not clear what work investigators had done so far or what additional steps they planned to take.
In a letter to the National Archives last month, Maloney made a series of requests for information she said the committee needs to determine whether Trump violated federal records laws regarding his handling of sensitive and even classified information. In response, the Archivist’s general counsel wrote on March 28 that “based on our consultation with the Department of Justice, we are unable to provide comment.”
Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.