As the General Services Administration prepares to ship pallets of cargo to Florida for former President Donald Trump in July 2021, the federal agency asked Trump aide Beau Harrison to confirm what was in the shipping boxes.
Harrison, Trump’s former operations aide, was asked to confirm that everything packaged and shipped to Florida was either “the former president’s office that needs to be closed or is federal government property” so it could be funded by the transition.
Former presidents can take with them certain government materials and office equipment needed to set up a permanent office outside the White House. But that doesn’t include the sort of classified documents Trump brought to Mar-a-Lago — the core of the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation.
Harrison, one of the few aides interviewed this spring by federal investigators seeking information on the president’s records, returned a letter on “Office of Donald J. Trump” letterhead explaining what was in the box.
The email exchange between GSA officials and Harrison is one of more than 100 new pages of emails and documents released by the GSA that debunk claims by Trump and his allies that government agencies are to blame for packaging containing Box of classified documents that were later recovered by the FBI during a search of his Mar-a-Lago estate in August.
The newly released emails also provide new details that underscore the hasty, chaotic nature of Trump’s transition after spending two months exhausting all avenues to try to overturn the 2020 election.
The emails make it clear that the boxes had been packaged and shrink-wrapped in an empty office space in Arlington, Virginia, as GSA officials planned to ship the five pallets of boxes — including 30 similar to Bank boxes recovered by the FBI. At Mar-a-Lago – to Florida.
The published newsletter, first reported by Bloomberg News, outlines how the boxes, including the 1,400-pound “document box,” were shipped from the White House to Florida, from buying inventory of boxes and shipping materials to photos of the new office space Trump’s team will live.
It is unclear whether the boxes shipped by the GSA contained government documents contained in 15 boxes sent to the National Archives in January, or the tens of thousands of documents retrieved by the FBI in August — material now part of a U.S. criminal investigation core. Confidential material found at Mar-a-Lago.
But the new email cache adds new details showing how documents from the Trump administration got into Florida — and directly debunks attempts by Trump and his allies to defend the former president by accusing the GSA.
On August 12, four days after the FBI raid, former Trump defense official Cash Patel claimed in an interview with Fox News that the GSA was responsible for documents in Trump’s Florida home.
“Even if (the documents) were kept secret…they would never meet the burden of intent because the president didn’t pack it up and take it out himself, and the GSA said they did, they made a mistake,” Patel Say. GSA never said they packaged the boxes.
“They packed them up,” Trump said in a Sept. 23 interview with Sean Hannity.
A spokesman for Trump did not directly address how the emails refuted the claims of the former president and his allies, but attacked the Biden administration.
“Power-hungry partisan bureaucrats use routine and necessary processes to intimidate and suppress those who dare to support President Trump and his America First agenda,” said Trump spokesman Tyler Budovich. “Why? Because Democrats Without doing anything for the American people, they are scrambling to create new witch hunts to distract them from their tragic failure.”
In emails throughout 2021, however, GSA career officials outlined to Trump aides what GSA can and cannot include in shipments that will be sent to Florida — underscoring that federal agencies are relying on Trump’s Assistant to evaluate what is being shipped.
While the transition team worked with the GSA to drive the initiative, concerns have grown within the National Archives about the loss of presidential documents. The National Archives reminded Trump’s lawyers in May 2021 that Trump’s letter with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and two dozen record boxes were missing.
But the document was never brought up in the logistics email exchange.
Instead, they sometimes focus on which items can and cannot be shipped to Florida on a federal dime. In particular, a 300-pound portrait of Trump gifted to the former president sparked multiple rounds, with the GSA ultimately refusing to ship the item, treating it as “personal property.”
At one point, GSA’s outgoing transition director sent Trump aides guidance on what was allowed to be sent.
“If the item is considered the property of the former president, it should not be shipped using transition funds. If the item is considered the property of the federal government, then it should be handed over to NARA or GSA,” Kathy Geisler said in an e-mail The email reads, along with guidelines on gifts. “I just want to make sure we understand what you can ship with bridge funds.”
The giant portrait was sent to the home of an aide and eventually to the former president’s resort.
In the email exchange, Trump’s communications director, Desiree Thompson Sale, asked Geisler to point out where in the federal code she was referring. “I want to make sure we’re in compliance, and the attachment appears to be general guidance on what gifts (foreign and domestic) can be accepted by government employees or elected officials,” she wrote.
“Working with NARA and GSA, I am fully compliant with the final disposition of gifts. So much so that we are loading a Penske truck with large portraits received after the 21st to my house so I can put it in my ,” Sayle added.
It wasn’t until mid-January — just nine days before President Joe Biden’s inauguration — that Trump’s staff began working on the former chief of staff Mark Meadows after a plan signed off by the former chief of staff. The life of the president after the establishment of the president. Following the same pattern of past presidential transitions, GSA will provide funding and support to help with the transition and establish a post-presidential office.
Around the time Meadows signed the plan, White House aides described a chaotic and uncertain environment with the president more focused on overturning the 2020 election than starting his next chapter. These situations lead to delayed, disorganized, and unconventional transitions that are evident in the treasure trove of email.
The chaotic environment continued after Trump left the White House. In July 2021, a flurry of late-night emails revealed that staff had unsuccessfully delivered boxes on the final night, and the outgoing team would be allowed to use transition funds to assist with the move, ultimately having to use other resources.
The boxes were picked up, and Trump’s team had long since gone to Florida, another night in August — a pallet the wrong size to fit on the freight elevator. Emails show that the incident again delayed deliveries and caused an intern to fly back from the Sunshine State to repack the pallets and prepare to send them to Mar-a-Lago, where they eventually arrived in mid-September.
“My intern is flying back to Washington tomorrow and he can repack pallets in Crystal City,” Purcell wrote to GSA. “Can you tell me if there is air conditioning on the 12th floor before I send him to pick up a roll of Uhaul’s shrink wrap to go over there?”
Correction: This story has been updated to correctly cite the General Services Administration.