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Donald Trump allegedly told his lawyers that he was willing to return the classified materials in Mar-a-Lago for files he believed would expose the FBI‘s probe into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia.

As National Archives officials pushed for Trump to return the files he had taken with him to Florida, the former president floated the idea to his lawyers that they should cut a deal with the department, the New York Times reported. 

Although Trump didn’t specify what files he wanted, he told his attorneys that there were documents that could ‘prove’ the FBI’s investigation was a ‘hoax.’

Trump’s team, however, never acted on the idea because the government had a right to take back the documents Trump had brought with him to Mar-a-Lago. 

Former President Donald Trump allegedly told his lawyers to cut a deal with the National Archives looking to take back classified files he took from the White House

Former President Donald Trump allegedly told his lawyers to cut a deal with the National Archives looking to take back classified files he took from the White House

Trump wanted to trade the documents (above) for files he said could prove that the FBI's probe into allegations of collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia was a 'hoax'

Trump wanted to trade the documents (above) for files he said could prove that the FBI’s probe into allegations of collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia was a ‘hoax’ 

Gary Stern, the top lawyer for the National Archives, began demanding Trump return the classified files from Mar-a-Lago in a letter in 2021. 

‘It is also our understanding that roughly two dozen boxes of original presidential records were kept in the residence of the White House over the course of President Trump’s last year in office and have not been transferred to NARA, despite a determination by Pat Cipollone in the final days of the administration that they need to be,’ Stern wrote. 

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Stern continued to hound Trump’s team to return the documents throughout the year, and sources told the Times that Trump repeatedly claimed to his legal team that there was ‘nothing of consequence’ inside the boxes. 

Alex Cannon, a Trump lawyer, was reportedly worried that the files Trump took might contain documents sought in the January 6 inquiry or be classified material, which Trump’s team did not have the proper security clearances to look after. 

It was when Cannon began pushing for the boxes to be returned in late 2021 that Trump pitched his idea of trading the documents for materials in the Russia probe.

The FBI raided Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate on August 8, retrieving 11,000 documents

The FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on August 8, retrieving 11,000 documents

Among the files taken were confidential records that Trump and his team did not have the clearance to hold or look over

Among the files taken were confidential records that Trump and his team did not have the clearance to hold or look over

Trump attorney Alex Cannon believed Trump had files sought after by the January 6 Senate Committee. Pictured: Cannon testifying before the committee in June

Trump attorney Alex Cannon believed Trump had files sought after by the January 6 Senate Committee. Pictured: Cannon testifying before the committee in June 

The former president has long contended that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation over claims Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election was a hoax made up by the FBI. 

In 2019, Mueller concluded that Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russians in order to improve his chances of beating Democrat Hilary Clinton, who faced scrutiny over her email servers. 

Muller’s investigation has faced its own wave of scrutiny since it concluded, with Charles McGonigal, a senior FBI official who worked on the probe, now under fire for his own alleged links to Russia. 

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McGonigal, the former counterintelligence chief at the FBI’s New York City field office, had previously worked with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, close contact of Trump 2016 campaign chair Paul Manafort who is thought to have played a leading role in the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere in the presidential race. 

If McGonigal’s work with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska proves to have violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, he could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine at most. 

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (above) found that Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russians in order to improve his chances of beating Democrat Hilary Clinton

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (above) found that Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russians in order to improve his chances of beating Democrat Hilary Clinton

Charles McGonigal has been Special Agent in Charge of the Counterintelligence Division for the New York Field Office of the FBI since he was appointed to that position by James Comey in October 2016

Charles McGonigal has been Special Agent in Charge of the Counterintelligence Division for the New York Field Office of the FBI since he was appointed to that position by James Comey in October 2016

After fellow Trump lawyer Eric Herschmann warned the former president that he could face legal troubles if he kept the documents, Trump reportedly went through the files in December. 

Although officials from the National Archives retrieved the boxes at Mar-a-Lago, they believed the former president was still in possession of more.

Trump allegedly told Cannon to pass on a message to the officials that everything had been returned, but Cannon refused, the Times reported. 

By August 8, the FBI conducted its raide of the Florida estate, retrieving more than 11,000 government files marked as classified. 

The documents recovered required such a high level of clearance, FBI agents and even senior members of President Joe Biden’s administration were not allowed to view them, according to a new bombshell report from The Washington Post. 

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According to the Post report, some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations that require special clearances, not just top-secret clearance. 

Only the president and cabinet or near-cabinet level officials would be cleared to authorize other government officials to access them, with the Post saying that only a few dozen national security officials even knew of their existence.

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