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Washington team out front on blockbuster Trump probe document

Pages from an Aug. 30, 2022 Department of Justice court filing in response to a request from the legal team of former President Donald Trump for a special master to review the documents seized during the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago are shown, early Aug. 31, 2022, after their release. Included in the filing was a FBI photo of documents that were seized during the search. (AP Photo / Jon Elswick)

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Washington staffers Eric Tucker, Jill Colvin, Mike Balsamo, Lou Kesten and Jon Elswick used planning and preparation — and worked through the night — to put AP ahead on the Justice Department document that alleged efforts to obstruct the investigation of classified documents kept at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

National security reporter Tucker, through his own reporting and instincts about the type of information likely to be in the document, knew it could reveal major new details about the FBI investigation. When the nearly 40-page document landed after 11 p.m. Tuesday night, he and fellow reporters Colvin and Balsamo knew exactly what to look for. They quickly identified the newsiest, most salient points and filed an alert just minutes after the document had dropped. It captured the gist of the document — that the FBI had reason to believe people had taken steps to obstruct their investigation. The team followed with a textured, detailed story that moved before competitors had even published their own alerts.

Desk supervisor Kesten provided lightning-fast editing and filing, while photo editor Elswick ensured that an evidence photo included in the document — depicting a pile of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago — moved immediately. The reporters worked deep into the morning to round out the story with context that mattered, and Tucker recorded a video of himself discussing the news which accompanied the piece. He followed up the next day with a story on obstruction and how it was emerging as a core investigative focus.

The team’s coverage left the competition playing catch-up and earned huge play, from social media engagement to online news sites and dozens of front pages, including major newspapers across the country.

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Detail of a page from an Aug. 30, 2022 Department of Justice court filing in response to a request from the legal team of former President Donald Trump for a special master to review the documents seized during the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago, shown Aug. 31, 2022. – AP Photo / Jon Elswick
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