Why the rooms that held classified documents in Mar-a-Lago matter

'People who have been convicted and sentenced have done things similar to what he is alleged to have done,' State Attorney Dave Aronberg says
Posted at 7:11 PM, Jun 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-12 19:11:51-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — According to a federal indictment unsealed Friday, former President Donald Trump stored classified documents in five specific rooms of Mar-a-Lago, including a bathroom and shower, an office space, a business center, and a ballroom that often held events.

The indictment said when the former president left the White House in January 2021, he ordered dozens of boxes, many of which contained classified documents, to be taken to the Palm Beach Club.

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During that time, the indictment said more than 150 staff members worked there, and thousands of people, including members and guests, we're going in and out of the club until the FBI raid in August 2022.

The indictment also said more than 150 events were held at the club during that time.

Here's the timeline, according to the indictment:

  • January 2021 to March 15, 2021: Some of Trumps boxes were stored in the Mar-a-Lago Club's White and Gold Ballroom, where events often took place
  • March 15, 2021: Boxes were moved from the ballroom the club's Business Center
  • April 5, 2021: Some boxes were moved from the Business Center to a bathroom and shower in the Mar-A-Lago Club's Lake Room
  • May 2021: Trump directed that a storage room on the ground floor of the Mar-a-Lago club be cleaned out so it could be used to store boxes 
  • June 24, 2021: At least 80 boxes that were in the Lake Room were moved to a storage room on the ground floor. Prosecutors said the hallway leading to the storage room could be reached from multiple different outside entrances, including one accessible from the Mar-a-Lago Club pool patio through a doorway that was often kept open.
  • November 25, 2021: A Trump employee brought boxes to Pine Hall, an entry room in trump’s residence 
  • August 8, 2022: the FBI executed a court-authorized search warrant for Mar-a-Lago.

The question is, could any of those people have accessed those documents?
"I only can speak to that gold ballroom, that one is very accessible," State Attorney Dave Aronberg said. “It's unlikely that a visitor to a social event will start digging through boxes. That’s not why there at Mar-a -Lago.”

Aronberg also added it's hard to believe there would have been boxes full of classified documents left in the ballroom during events, where people would have access to them—after all, they're an eyesore.

"Occasionally, you do see boxes in there, but they’re normally to do with events that are going to take place," said Chase Scott of Chase Scott PR.

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Scott represents nonprofits across Palm Beach County for marketing and public relations, and said he has been to hundreds of fundraisers at the Club. Scott said he also has a hard time believing documents would be left in the ballroom, and said he highly doubts anyone would have been able to access any of the other rooms that contained documents.

"You could almost compare this to the White House. The White House has tours you can go on, and there are areas that are accessible to the public and there are many areas that are off limits," said Scott, "and at Mar-a-Lago, those areas are buttoned down pretty well."

Still, Aronberg said there is a security concern. He said there have been a number of people arrested for getting into Mar-a-Lago in connection with potential spying operations. Aronberg said he even prosecuted one of those cases himself.

"So, that’s your concern," Aronberg said. "You’re going to have people with bad intentions going in there, I wouldn’t worry so much about the wedding guests.”

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Aronberg also came back to the fact that as soon as Trump left office, he was not supposed to have those documents in the first place. Aronberg said the question of who could have had access becomes irrelevant.

“That’s what this case is all about, that’s what separates him from others," Aronberg said. "But, what is similar, is that people who have been convicted and sentenced have done things similar to what he is alleged to have done.”

According to the indictment, the National Archives and Record Administration, or NARA, demanded Trump turn over those documents on several occasions. Prosecutors said Trump refused. Aronberg said that's what this case boils down to.