DETROIT — A majority of likely Michigan voters believe former President Donald Trump broke the law when he took classified documents from the White House to his Florida resort, according to a new statewide poll commissioned by The Detroit News and WDIV-TV.
The survey of 600 likely voters, conducted by the Lansing-based Glengariff Group, found nearly 55% of respondents said they thought Trump committed a crime when he took around 100 classified documents — some containing sensitive national security secrets, according to the U.S. Department of Justice — from the White House to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach when he left office.
"This isn't just: 'Did he do something I didn't agree with,'" said pollster Richard Czuba, founder of Glengariff group. "We need to stop, step back and say, 'There's a clear majority of Michiganders who think a former president broke the law.' That's a really big deal."
Only 22% of voters said the one-term Republican president had a right to take the documents, while about 21% of respondents were unsure, according to the poll.
The statewide survey of 600 likely voters included a sample of 39% of voters who identify as Democrats, 39% who vote Republican and 19% who say they're political independents.
Responses differed along political lines: More than 97% of people who identified as "strong Democrats" and 88% of those who "lean Democrats" believed Trump broke the law, while around 34% of people who identified as "lean Republican" and 51% of "strong Republicans" believed he had a right to the documents.
About 51% of independents believe Trump committed a crime, according to the poll.
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points and was conducted from Sept. 26-29. Around 26% of respondents were reached by telephone operators on a landline and around 74% were reached by cellphone.
The documents, seized by the FBI during a raid at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, are at the center of a criminal investigation into whether Trump mishandled classified information and destroyed government records. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
Under the Presidential Records Act, White House documents must be transferred to the National Archives at the end of a presidential administration. But several boxes of Trump's presidential records were sent to Mar-a-Lago in January 2021, even though White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said they should go to the National Archives.
Officials at the National Archives asked Trump's team repeatedly to return the documents throughout 2021 and the beginning of 2022 before picking up 15 boxes of records in mid-January this year. The boxes contained a mix of classified and non-classified documents, including news articles and mementos. The Archives asked the DOJ to investigate mishandling.
The FBI later learned some of those documents included information related to secretly gathered intelligence or national security secrets, and included handwritten notes from Trump, a letter to Trump from former President Barack Obama and a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Investigators also learned that Trump had additional classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and obtained a grand jury subpoena to get the remainder in May. Trump's team said they turned over all relevant material when FBI agents visited the resort in June.
However, during a court-authorized raid at Mar-a-Lago in early August, they collected around two dozen additional boxes that included more than 11,000 government documents, more than 100 classified documents, and 48 empty folders with banners reading "classified."
A federal judge appointed a special master to review the seized files and determine which may be protected through attorney-client privilege or executive privilege, which Trump has claimed despite no longer holding office. Last month, a federal appeals court determined the DOJ could continue using the seized documents in its criminal investigation.
Trump has warned that there would be "problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we've never seen before" if he were indicted for mishandling classified government files.
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