Lawyer refused Trump instructions to tell Archives all documents returned
Correction: Attorney Alex Cannon worked for the Trump campaign after being employed by the Trump Organization. An earlier version of this story misrepresented the nature of his employment.
A former attorney for Donald Trump rebuffed the former president when he asked him to submit a statement to the National Archives earlier this year affirming that all presidential records at Mar-a-Lago had been returned.
The attorney, Alex Cannon, refused, according to multiple reports, because he was not sure such a statement was true.
Cannon was facilitating the return of records to the Archives that had been stretching at that point for nearly a year.
Trump himself eventually packed the 15 boxes that were turned over in January, according to The Washington Post, which first broke the story, before asking Cannon to submit the statement to the Archives.
Cannon, a former Trump Organization attorney who would later work with Trump’s campaign team, reportedly told others he was uncomfortable making such a statement and that Trump staff encouraged him not to do so.
Sources contacted by the Post said Cannon was also hesitant to review the contents of the boxes, as he did not have a security clearance and was unsure if they might contain classified records.
The Trump team ultimately did not send a sworn statement to the Archives and instead released a public statement in February when news of the returned boxes broke, insisting the records were returned in a “friendly” manner.
However, the volume of classified records within the 15 boxes — 184 in total — would ignite a referral to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The Trump team would later submit a sworn statement to the Justice Department that it had returned all presidential records on the premises after the DOJ issued a subpoena for such records.
In that second production, the Trump team turned over 38 classified records. But again, there appeared to be hesitancy to sign a declaration that all records had been returned. Earlier reporting from The New York Times indicated that Trump attorney Evan Corcoran drafted the statement but handed it to another attorney, Christina Bobb, to sign.
After receiving the statement, the Justice Department would go on to secure a warrant to search Mar-a-Lago, recovering another 100 classified records and some 200,000 pages of presidential records.
A spokesman for Trump bashed both the DOJ and the media in response to the reports.
“Biden’s weaponized DOJ has no greater ally than the fake news media, which seems to only serve as the partisan microphone of leakers and liars buried deep within the bowels of America’s government,” Taylor Budowich said in a statement.
Those documents are now at the center of a legal dispute between the Justice Department and Trump, who has claimed executive privilege allows him to retain the records and secured a victory from a Florida judge who backed his request to have a special master review the evidence.
The DOJ has argued that any presidential records — classified or otherwise — are not Trump’s personal property and he has no right to retain them.
Cannon was reportedly sidelined from dealing with the Archives after failing to sign the statement, and he has since left Trump’s team to work for a D.C.-based law firm. He did not respond to request for comment.
Cannon previously appeared in video clips during the House Jan. 6 committee’s first slate of hearings, telling the panel’s investigators he spoke briefly with Trump ahead of the certification and told him he was not aware of any widespread voter fraud.
“He asked me if we were finding anything. And I said that I didn’t believe we were finding it or I was not personally finding anything sufficient to alter the results of the election. And he — he thanked me. That was our interaction,” Cannon said.
—Updated at 5:03 p.m.