As Trump departed the White House, aides rushed to pack documents

Workers move boxes from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building into a truck on the White House grounds, before the departure of US president Donald Trump, in January 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - Donald Trump's departure from the White House was as chaotic as his presidency, former aides said, and his final hours in power were marked by a last-minute rush to pack up piles of paper and memorabilia he wanted.

Trump, who preferred to look at things on paper, not electronically, had collected presidential documents going back several years, newspapers over a year old, briefing materials, event memos, and other souvenirs to mark presidential occasions, several former aides familiar with his exit told Reuters.

The former US president's handling of classified and other official documents in the boxes of paperwork he took with him to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, after he left the White House has sparked a federal criminal investigation.

Trump kept the Oval Office tidy, but would work from the dining room connected to it, and a small storm of paperwork often followed him wherever he went, aides and advisers said.

He would take boxes of materials on Air Force One flights with him, and sign official papers, autograph notes to friends and colleagues - and then pack it all back into a box at the end of the trip, they said.

Trump and his advisers have argued that the president has the constitutional power to declassify any record he wants and legally can take personal copies of his records.

Past presidents have typically hewed closely to the requirements of the Presidential Records Act to make sure records are turned over to the National Archives.

Trump refused to attend President Joe Biden's inauguration and left the White House on Inauguration Day, Jan 20, 2021, without greeting his successor, bucking with historical precedent.

Moving trucks, piles of boxes and aides carrying souvenirs and photos were spotted in the White House driveway in the days beforehand by Reuters.

A worker moves a box out of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds, before the departure of US president Donald Trump, in January 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

How the former president and his aides exited the White House has become a topic of concern among security analysts.

Mark Zaid, a lawyer who handles national security cases, said based on the descriptions of what was found in the boxes,"I'm envisioning it's 4:15 and I'm moving from this office by 5 and taking my arms and swiping everything on my desk into the boxes." REUTERS

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