The FBI recovered documents that were labeled “top secret” from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, according to court papers released Friday after a federal judge unsealed the warrant that authorized the unprecedented search this week.
A property receipt unsealed by the court shows FBI agents took 11 sets of classified records from the estate during a search on Monday.
The seized records include some that were marked classified as top secret and also “sensitive compartmented information,” a special category meant to protect the nation’s most important secrets and those that if revealed publicly would harm U.S. interests. The court records did not provide specific details about the documents or what information they might contain.
The warrant details that federal agents were investigating potential violations of three different federal laws, including one that governs gathering, transmitting or losing defense information under the Espionage Act. The other statutes address the concealment, mutilation or removal of records and the destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations.
Trump’s attorney, Christina Bobb, who was present at Mar-a-Lago when the agents conducted the search, signed both property receipts — one that was two pages long and another that is a single page.
In a statement earlier Friday, Trump claimed that the documents seized by agents were “all declassified,” and argued that he would have turned over the documents to the Justice Department if asked.
While incumbent presidents have the power to declassify information, that authority lapses as soon as they leave office and it was not clear if the documents in question have ever been declassified. Trump also kept possession of the documents despite multiple requests from agencies, including the National Archives, to turn over presidential records in accordance with federal law.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the same judge who signed off on the search warrant, unsealed the warrant and property receipt Friday at the request of the Justice Department after Attorney General Merrick Garland declared there was “substantial public interest in this matter,” and Trump backed the warrant’s “immediate” release. The Justice Department told the judge Friday afternoon that Trump’s lawyers did not object to the proposal to make it public.
In messages posted on his Truth Social platform, Trump wrote, “Not only will I not oppose the release of documents … I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents.”
Trump himself had been given at least some of the records the government was seeking to unseal, but he and his lawyers have declined, so far, to make them public.
The Justice Department’s request is striking because such documents traditionally remain sealed during a pending investigation. But the department appeared to recognize that its silence since the search had created a vacuum for bitter verbal attacks by Trump and his allies, and that the public was entitled to the FBI’s side about what prompted Monday’s action at the former president’s home.
“The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” said a motion filed in federal court in Florida on Thursday.
To obtain a search warrant, federal authorities must prove to a judge that probable cause exists to believe that a crime was committed. Garland said he personally approved the warrant, a decision he said the department did not take lightly given that standard practice where possible is to select less intrusive tactics than a search of one’s home.
In this case, according to a person familiar with the matter, there was substantial engagement with Trump and his representatives prior to the search warrant, including a subpoena for records and a visit to Mar-a-Lago a couple of months ago by FBI and Justice Department officials to assess how the documents were stored. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Neither Trump nor the FBI has said anything about what documents the FBI might have recovered, or what precisely agents were looking for.
FBI and Justice Department policy cautions against discussing ongoing investigations, both to protect the integrity of the inquiries and to avoid unfairly maligning someone who is being scrutinized but winds up ultimately not being charged. That’s especially true in the case of search warrants, where supporting court papers are routinely kept secret as the investigation proceeds.
In this case, though, Garland cited the fact that Trump himself had provided the first public confirmation of the FBI search, “as is his right.” The Justice Department, in its new filing, also said that disclosing information about it now would not harm the court’s functions.
The Justice Department under Garland has been leery of public statements about politically charged investigations, or of confirming to what extent it might be investigating Trump as part of a broader probe into the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The Mar-a-Lago search warrant served Monday was part of an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the discovery of classified White House records recovered from Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida, earlier this year. The National Archives had asked the department to investigate after saying 15 boxes of records it retrieved from the estate included classified records. Multiple federal laws govern the handling of classified information.
The attorney general also condemned verbal attacks on FBI and Justice Department personnel over the search. Some Republican allies of Trump have called for the FBI to be defunded. Large numbers of Trump supporters have called for the warrant to be released hoping they it will show that Trump was unfairly targeted.
“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” Garland said of federal law enforcement agents, calling them “dedicated, patriotic public servants.”
Earlier Thursday, an armed man wearing body armor tried to breach a security screening area at an FBI field office in Ohio, then fled and was later killed after a standoff with law enforcement. A law enforcement official briefed on the matter identified the man as Ricky Shiffer and said he is believed to have been in Washington in the days leading up to the attack on the Capitol and may have been there on the day it took place.
Republished with permission from The Associated Press
Rex Lee Reid
August 12, 2022 at 5:13 pm
He did not take classified documents Hillary did. The pres can declassify any and all documents at anytime by any means. The fact he took them means they are declassified per SCOTUS. You are a liar, fool, and fascist.
August 12, 2022 at 9:10 pm
You are no lawyer. Just spewing nonsense out of your bung hole 🍩
August 12, 2022 at 5:27 pm
I worked with highly classified documents when I was a federal employee. That is not how it works.
August 12, 2022 at 5:31 pm
The timing is what is suspect. Less than 100-days before mid-terms. If the documents were declassified before Trump took them (as he claims), DOJ needs to get to the bottom of that question VERY QUICKLY, because if that question goes unanswered until near or even after the November elections, and the answer turns out to be “Yes, in fact they were declassified,” it begins to look like political chicanahry at the highest levels. If the documents are still classified, Trump and his faithful will just have to deal with that reality.
August 12, 2022 at 6:38 pm
The DOJ has been trying to get these documents for 18 months. As you well know Donald Trump is a master in delay tactics. Everything goes to court. The first pile of boxes arrived in February. After sorting through the boxes DOJ and someone inside the Trump camp revealed that more was inside the home. Two additional subpoena were issued and ignored by Trump.
Trump has the authority to declassify documents but there is follow up paperwork. WHERE IS THE PAPERWORK AND WHO SIGNED OFF?
Additionally once the documents are declassified they are not “Trump’s trophies’…..for his keepsake at Mar-a-Lago. Trump has NO RIGHT to keep documents that could endanger countries. Now that the documents are secure …. Biden can reclassify the documents as “top secret!”
The final decision for Americans is this:
“….do you want another four years of lawbreaking, racist idiots embarrassing our great country?”
August 12, 2022 at 7:44 pm
Pres Trump’s lawyers will get the search warrant thrown out for being too broad and overreaching. Congress knows this. Problem is that the House can use the seized documents to claim of illegality to further their imbalanced hearing. The “taint” is what they want.
August 13, 2022 at 5:27 am
The ‘hearing’ is an expose on Mr. Trump’s fabricated election lie that the weak and gullible and brainwashed still believe, while the documents pertain to a whole other realm of criminality.
It is perfectly understandable for you to blur his activities, as they stretch all the way back to his bone spur days.
August 12, 2022 at 9:13 pm
He wasn’t supposed to have them. They don’t belong at Mar-a-Lago…end of story. Lock his fat ass up before he commits anymore crime. Rule of law right?? Law and order? Did that end on January the 6th or something? Let’s ask Ashli Babbitt vie Ouija board…
August 13, 2022 at 10:34 am
Call in an airstrike on Mar-a-Lago!!! Take out terrorist leader Abu Bakr Al-Trump. Then and only then can the tattered conservative brain begin to heal.
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