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Aug. 15, 2022, 7:18 a.m. EDT

The events that culminated in the FBI search of former president Trump’s private club in Palm Beach — a timeline

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate sent reverberations across the country, even before court papers were unsealed Friday showing agents recovered documents labeled “top secret” as they investigated potential violations of three laws, including one that governs defense information under the Espionage Act.

Context: FBI recovered 11 sets of classified documents in Trump search: report

Also: FBI’s search of Trump’s Florida estate: Why now?

Trump has said the documents seized by agents were “all declassified,” and argued that he would have turned them over to the Justice Department if asked, even as he maintained possession of the documents despite multiple requests to turn them over in accordance with federal law. It has not been demonstrated that, as Trump claimed, the documents had been declassified or whether he would have had the power to do so.

Here’s a look at how the months-long investigation unfolded and the rapid drumbeat of what’s happened since:

Mid-January 2022: Fifteen boxes of presidential records are retrieved from Mar-a-Lago in a transfer arranged by the National Archives and Records Administration. The transfer came after a Trump representative told the agency in December 2021 there were records in Florida nearly a year after he left office. The agency says that under federal law, all records have to be preserved, a process that is “critical to our democracy.”

Trump calls the discussions “collaborative and respectful” and says it was a “great honor” to work with the National Archives. His representatives told the agency they would keep looking for more presidential records.

Jan. 31, 2022: The agency says in a statement that some paper records from Trump’s time in office had been torn up by Trump. During his tenure in office, White House records management officials had recovered and taped together some of the torn-up presidential records and turned them over to the archives as he left office, along with other torn-up records that had not been reconstructed.

Feb. 18: Classified information was found in the 15 boxes of White House records that had been stored at Mar-a-Lago, the National Archives and Records Administration says. The revelation came in a letter responding to a congressional oversight committee. It also confirmed that the matter had been sent to the Justice Department.

Federal law bars removing classified documents to unauthorized locations, though Trump could argue that as president he was the ultimate authority on whether documents were classified.

Trump, for his part, says the National Archives were given the requested presidential records “in an ordinary and routine process.”

The National Archives later said classified materials had been taken by Trump to his Florida private club.

From the archives (February 2022): Trump accused by his White House staff of flushing documents down the toilet: He says it’s ‘categorically untrue’

Feb. 25: The House Committee on Oversight and Reform seeks additional documents from the National Archives as part of its investigation into Trump’s handling of White House records.

The committee chaired by Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York laid out a series of documents it needed to determine if the former president violated federal records laws when he took the boxes to Florida.

Spring 2022: Investigators from the Justice Department and FBI visit Mar-a-Lago to get more information about classified materials taken to Florida, according to a source familiar with the matter. Federal officials also served a subpoena for some documents believed to be at the estate.

Post–June 3 meeting: According to a New York Times report on Saturday , at least one member of the former president’s legal team guaranteed in writing that all documents with classified markings had been turned over to the FBI.

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