Federal agents took 11 bundles of classified material, according to court records. Four sets contained ‘Top Secret’ documents, while three sets contained items classified as ‘Secret’ and a further three sets were marked ‘Confidential’.
A description of the warrant in the receipt states that the content collected included an executive pardon for Roger Stone, a longtime ally of the former president and a Trump advocate, to overturn the results of the 2020 election; plus items related to the French president, a leather box of documents and various handwritten notes and photographs, some of which were kept in staples.
“All physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, proceeds of crime or other illegally possessed items were pursued,” in violation of the Espionage Act and other criminal laws, the warrant said.
The search was conducted on August 8 and came only after the former president and his legal team had met with FBI and DOJ investigators several weeks earlier to discuss concerns about the records. The original warrant application was dated Aug. 5 and was signed by Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.
While Republicans in the House and Senate and right-wingers like Breitbart have used the delay as a talking point to point out that the delay was inappropriate and, moreover, the search was inappropriate, it’s worth noting that the filing was made on Friday, a week ago end, and that Reinhart actually gave agents until August 19 to execute their warrant.
Attorney General Merrick Garland revealed in a state statement Thursday that he personally reviewed the warrant. He also noted the less intrusive avenues offered to the former president to respond to the records probe. Part of the reason Garland made the statement, he said, was because of the misinformation that had exploded around the warrant and the search of Trump’s properties.
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When the warrant first began circulating on Friday, it was also initially obtained by Breitbart, a regular repository of right-wing conspiracy theories and an oversized echo chamber for the former president and his allies. In its report Friday, the outlet released the names of the FBI agents who served the warrant and conducted the search.
According to NBC’s Ben Collins, who covers the network’s disinformation and conspiracy, “the most frequent comments on Trump’s forums” Friday were supporters of the former president trying to track down agents so they could become “helicopter passengers.”
The remark is a reference to how Chilean dictator Augusta Pinochet killed dissidents by throwing them out of helicopters.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat and former U.S. attorney, tweeted Friday that the inventory of materials taken from Mar-a-Lago confirmed his initial suspicions that Trump had repeatedly failed to fully respond to document requests.
David Oddo, former New York State Attorney and former President of the United States The New York State Trial Lawyers Association offered a similar theory to Daily Kos on Friday. Oddo said talks between the DOJ and the defendant will begin as “regular communications.”
“Usually there is cooperation. If not, go to subpoena. Everything is non-intrusive,” Oddo said.
Whitehouse believed that the FBI’s search warrant almost certainly came about because they had evidence that Trump had yet to fully comply with the rules on records sought by the National Archives.
The search of Trump’s home this week was preceded by a secret grand jury subpoena for classified documents that were given to him in June, according to reports. A federal prosecutor and three FBI agents met with Trump’s lawyers at Mar-a-Lago on June 3 to discuss the boxes of records Trump took from the White House after his term ended.
A grand jury subpoena that preceded the visit had demanded that Trump turn over any documents with classification labels, as well as any other items he may have kept that needed to be returned.
That’s because when the National Archives finally recovered the 15 boxes of documents and other items that Trump took from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, the agency confirmed that those boxes also found some records that were “classified national security information. “
The National Archives asked the Justice Department to get involved after that, and by April The Ministry of Justice has launched an investigation into the recordings.
Trump was not expected at the June 3 meeting. But according to his attorney, Christina Boba, he suddenly appeared, offered to cooperate and encouraged agents to work with his legal team. Bob’s disclosures have so far blunted Trump’s insistence that the search was wrong. To that end, Bob acknowledged as much to other outlets and announced this week that days after the June 3 meeting, the FBI’s head of counterintelligence and export controls, Jay Brett, contacted Trump’s office and asked that a layer of security — a padlock — be added to the room where the documents are kept.
Trump’s lawyer Evan Corcoran said this The Wall Street Journal they put on a padlock and even provided the FBI with surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago, which was requested under a separate subpoena sent to the Trump Organization.
In the past 24 hours, citing anonymous sources, The Wall Street Journal and NBC have reported that investigators were prompted to search the property because of a tip from someone familiar with where the Mar-a-Lago documents were kept. This source also believed Trump may have additional classified records.
According to the redacted warrant, agents believed classified, confidential and top secret records were improperly stored at Mar-a-Lago. The FBI sought access to “Office 45” as well as any storage rooms and “any other rooms or areas” that could be used to store records.
A copy of the probable cause affidavit was not released Friday. It was not intended to be released. Search warrant affidavits are almost always permanently sealed unless charges are filed.
The affidavit of probable cause is what Judge Reinhart relied on to approve the warrant.
It is highly unlikely that this testimony in the Trump case will become public anytime soon, as the Justice Department has already indicated that it has no plans to release it at this time.
Its content would detail the criminal laws at issue, as well as possibly reveal information about grand jury subpoenas. It would also make clear how the department launched its investigation into the secret recordings.
Trump supporters tried Friday to downplay news that the twice-impeached president is now under investigation for violations of the Espionage Act and obstruction of justice. Instead, many, including those at Breitbart, have blithely suggested that the former president can effectively declassify any material he so chooses at any time, making the FBI’s findings questionable.
But that’s not the case, and besides, even if Trump had the right to declassify without any outside interference, the Espionage Act and all the other statutes cited in the warrant make it clear: illegal retention of documents related to national defense. — or their destruction — is independent of whether the documents are classified or declassified.
The classified materials that Trump had at Mar-a-Lago were very sensitive, writes The New York Times. Some entries were labeled as items falling under the category of “Special Access Programs” or SAP. This is a particularly elite access, as it is reserved only for high-ranking military officials and members of the intelligence community,
The SAP label typically covers an item containing highly sensitive defense information about American weapons or weapon system technology, such as
Trump spokesman Taylor Budovich condemned the Mar-a-Lago search in a statement Friday.
“The Biden administration is clearly in damage control after the botched raid in which they seized the president’s picture books, a ‘handwritten note’ and declassified documents,” Budovich said.
Again, however, it is unclear what (if any) items were declassified.