WASHINGTON – Donald Trump suggested to a book author that he turned over correspondence with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to the National Archives upon leaving the White House, although the Archives indicated that was not true because they later requested Trump-Kim letters as part of an investigation into Trump's withholding of classified information.
Asked if he was able to take the Kim letters when he left office in early 2021, Trump said: "No, I think that has the … I think that’s in the archives, but most of it is in the Archives. But the Kim Jong Un letters, we have incredible things. I have incredible letters with other leaders.”
The comment came during a Sept. 16, 2021, interview of Trump by Maggie Haberman, a New York Times reporter who has written a new book on the 45th president. "Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America," is to be published on Tuesday.
Correspondence between Trump and Kim – described by the ex-U.S. president as "beautiful letters" – was among the items included in 15 boxes that Trump submitted to the National Archives in January, a year after Trump left office.
The Archives later said it believed Trump retained other documents he should have turned over to the National Archives as well, including classified information.
That complaint led to the Justice Department search and seizure of documents at his home in Mar-a-Lago, Fla., in August.
A beautiful letter:Text of President Trump's letter to North Korea's Kim Jong Un
The search revealed the existence of a grand jury investigation into whether Trump illegally took classified documents with him when he exited the White House on Jan. 20, 2021.
The National Archives released a May 6, 2021, memo to Trump’s lawyers referencing the missing documents, including the Trump-Kim letters.
“The original correspondence between President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un were not transferred to us,” the memo said; “it is our understanding that in January 2021, just prior to the end of the Administration, the originals were put in a binder for the President, but were never returned to the Office of Records Management for transfer to NARA (the The National Archives and Records Administration). It is essential that these original records be transferred to NARA as soon as possible.”
Trump has denied wrongdoing and denounced the investigation as politically motivated. He is also under investigation in Atlanta as well as Washington, D.C., over efforts to overturn his election loss to President Joe Biden and the subsequent insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.
In the interview in September of 2021, when Haberman asked Trump if he had taken any mementos with him, Trump sad, "nothing of great urgency, no."
He then brought up the Kim letters: “I have great things though, you know. The letters, the Kim Jong Un letters. I had many of them."
When Haberman said "you were able to take those with you?” Trump demurred and said he believed the Archives had possession of them.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump suggests he gave Kim Jong Un letters to Archives (he didn't)