US investigates Trump's handling of records he took to Florida home

Former president took White House documents to his Mar-a-Lago estate

Revelations that former US president Donald Trump took government records with him to Mar-a-Lago are a political headache for the former president and possibly illegal. AP

The US Justice Department has launched an early-stage investigation into former president Donald Trump's removal of official presidential records to his Florida estate bearing the name Mar-a-Lago, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The investigation comes after the US National Archives and Records Administration in February notified Congress that it had recovered about 15 boxes of White House documents from Mr Trump's Florida residence, some of which contained classified materials.

The US House Oversight Committee at that time announced it was expanding an investigation into Mr Trump's actions and asked the archives to turn over additional information.

Mr Trump previously confirmed he had agreed to return certain records to the archives, calling it "an ordinary and routine process".

On Thursday, his spokesman Taylor Budowich criticised the Justice Department investigation and called it a sham.

"The Democrats, who are failing tremendously at governing, continue to weaponise every branch of government with sham investigations," Mr Budowich said.

"Their partisan distractions won't stop President Trump and his endorsed candidates from sweeping Democrats out of power this November."

A federal law called the US Presidential Records Act requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president's official duties.

The Justice Department investigation is still in a very early stage, the source said, and it is unclear if it could lead to any criminal charges. The source spoke on condition of anonymity.

The investigation was reported earlier by the Washington Post.

News about the Justice Department probe came to light after Carolyn Maloney, the House oversight committee's Democratic chairwoman, earlier on Thursday sent a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland to complain that the department was stonewalling her congressional probe.

In her letter to Mr Garland, Ms Maloney quoted March 28 correspondence from the archives to her committee in which the agency informed her that "based on our consultation with the Department of Justice, we are unable to provide any comment" about the contents of the boxes in Mar-a-Lago.

She asked Mr Garland to provide a written explanation by April 14 on whether the department will give the archives a green light to co-operate with the congressional investigation.

Updated: April 07, 2022, 8:06 PM