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 authorised 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 property receipt is a document prepared by federal agents to specify what was taken during a search.
Classified and top secret
The seized records include some that were marked as classified and top secret. The court records did not provide specific details about the documents or what information they might contain.
In a statement on Friday, Mr. Trump claimed that the documents seized by agents at his Florida club 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. Mr. 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 Mr. Trump backed the warrant's "immediate" release.
Earlier in the day, The Wall Street Journal reported that some of the documents were "meant to be only available in special government facilities." It said a list of items removed included information about the "President of France."
The Justice Department had asked a Florida judge to unseal the search warrant on Friday barring objections from Mr. Trump, who is weighing another White House run in 2024.
The 76-year-old Mr. Trump said he would not block the release of the warrant while complaining that he was the victim of "unprecedented political weaponization of law enforcement" by "radical left Democrats."
Mr. Trump and his lawyers have actually had a copy of the search warrant and the receipt listing the property seized by FBI agents for days and they could have revealed the contents previously themselves.
The Wall Street Journal said FBI agents carted away around 20 boxes of items including binders of photos, a handwritten note and the grant of clemency made by Trump to Roger Stone, an ally of the former president.
The Washington Post on Thursday cited anonymous sources close to the investigation as saying classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the papers sought by FBI agents during the raid.
It is unclear at this point how much information would be included in the documents, if made public, or if they would encompass an FBI affidavit that would presumably lay out a detailed factual basis for the search. The department specifically requested the unsealing of the warrant as well as a property receipt listing the items that were seized, along with two unspecified attachments.
Neither Mr. Trump nor the FBI has said anything about what documents the FBI might have recovered, or what precisely agents were looking for.
The highly unusual move to unseal the search warrant was announced by Attorney General Merrick Garland — the country's top law enforcement officer — who said he had "personally approved" the raid on Trump's home.
Mr. Garland said he had asked a Florida judge to unseal the warrant because of "substantial public interest in this matter," and he gave Mr. Trump and his legal team until 3:00 pm (1900 GMT) Friday to oppose the motion.
Leading Republicans have rallied around Mr. Trump and some members of his party have accused the Justice Department and FBI of partisanship in targeting the ex-president.
Attack on FBI
In an attack that appeared to be a direct response to the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, an armed man tried to storm an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Thursday.
The assailant, who was shot dead by police after exchanges of gunfire and an hours-long standoff, reportedly posted on Mr. Trump's Truth Social platform that he hoped his actions would serve as a "call to arms."
Garland on Thursday criticized what he called "unfounded attacks" on the FBI and Justice Department while FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee, denounced "violence and threats against law enforcement."
The Justice Department typically does not confirm or deny whether it is investigating someone, and Garland took pains to emphasise the law was being applied fairly to Trump.
In a statement on Thursday, Mr. Trump said his attorneys had been "cooperating fully" and "the government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it."
In addition to investigations into his business practices, Mr. Trump faces legal scrutiny for his efforts to overturn the results of the November 2020 election, and for the January 6, 2021 attack on the U. S. Capitol by his supporters.
Mr. Trump was impeached for a historic second time by the House after the Capitol riot — he was charged with inciting an insurrection — but was acquitted by the Senate.
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