When Chamberlain Harris’s name first started getting bandied about as the woman in whose possession additional documents with classified markings were found last year at Mar-a-Lago, her LinkedIn bio described how, in addition to a trip to Spain in summer 2018, she also made a trip to St. Petersburg in Summer 2019, immediately before she took an internship at the White House.
Since then — perhaps today, after the Guardian published a follow-up on the story of those classified documents — the reference to Russia was removed.
In its first story on the documents, Guardian described that Molly Michael, then Trump’s Executive Assistant, ordered the woman in question to make a digital copy of the documents.
Then, at Mar-a-Lago in December, the contractors found a box that mainly contained presidential schedules, in which they found a couple of classified-marked documents to also be present and alerted the legal team to return the materials to the justice department, the sources said.
The exact nature of the classified-marked documents remains unclear, but a person with knowledge of the search likened their sensitivity to schedules for presidential movements – for instance, presidential travel to Afghanistan – that are considered sensitive until they have taken place.
After the Trump legal team turned over the box of schedules, the sources said, they learned that a junior Trump aide – employed by Trump’s Save America political action committee who acted as an assistant in Trump’s political “45 Office” – last year scanned and uploaded the contents of the box to a laptop.
The junior Trump aide, according to what one of the sources said, was apparently instructed to upload the documents by top Trump aide Molly Michael to create a repository of what Trump was doing while in office and was apparently careless in scanning them on to her work laptop.
Today’s update, in addition to identifying the woman as ROTUS — a made-up title that Harris has not yet deleted from her LinkedIn bio — described that the aide in question first had the box at a bungalow at Mar-a-Lago, then brought it to an off-site office, then brought it with her to occupy the desk that Molly Michael once had (in which at least two classified documents likely were found during the August 2022 search).
Known internally as ROTUS, short for Receptionist of the United States, the junior aide initially kept the box at a converted guest bungalow at Mar-a-Lago called the “tennis cottage” after Trump left office, and she soon took it with her to a government-leased office in the Palm Beach area.
The box remained at the government-leased office from where the junior aide worked through most of 2022, explaining why neither Trump’s lawyer who searched Mar-a-Lago in June for any classified-marked papers nor the FBI agents who searched the property in August found the documents.
Around the time that Trump returned to Mar-a-Lago from his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey at the end of the summer, the junior aide was told that she was being relocated to a desk in the anteroom of Trump’s own office at Mar-a-Lago that was previously assigned to top aide Molly Michael.
The junior aide retrieved her work belongings – including the box – from the government-leased office and took them to her new Mar-a-Lago workspace around September. At that time, the justice department’s criminal investigation into Trump’s retention of national security documents was intensifying.
But the justice department was not satisfied, and it pressed the Trump legal team to get the contractors to conduct the third known search of Mar-a-Lago in early December – at which point the contractors discovered the box of presidential schedules, some with classified markings.
The Trump legal team alerted the FBI, which sent federal agents down to collect the box and its contents the following day.
A few weeks later, Trump’s lawyers started exploring whether they could get a better understanding of the sensitivity of the small number of schedules marked as classified, for the junior aide had kept sole custody of the box throughout that period.
It was at that point that the junior aide revealed for the first time that she could find out exactly what they were, because Michael – who left the Trump political team at the end of the summer – had told her to scan all of the schedules to her laptop.
Trump’s people are trying to shift the blame to her — but the documents were in Trump’s possession when he was subpoenaed last summer, so the failure to find them still arises from Trump’s failure to do a thorough search of the offices he controlled.
And this woman — whom Trump tried to forestall being subpoenaed in the laptop handover — just gave the FBI reason to look a whole lot more closely at her.
Update: Some have mentioned the report that this got uploaded to the cloud. That’s from this CNN report.