After leaving the White House, former US President Donald Trump took at least 700 pages of secret documents with him, according to the US National Archives. Some of them are apparently assigned to the highest levels of secrecy, according to a letter to a Trump lawyer that the archive published on Tuesday night.
The documents are stored in Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and were handed over in January. The US media unanimously reported on the letter, which is dated May 10, on Tuesday, and the New York Times published it online.
The letter went on to say that the government needed to “make an assessment of the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials were stored and transported.” The exchange that has now been published between the authority and Trump’s defense attorneys took place months before the FBI federal police searched the ex-president’s property. Two weeks ago, other documents, some of which were classified as top secret, were secured.
The search caused a stir beyond the United States. Trump argued that he released the confiscated sets of documents from his presidency. Incumbent presidents do have far-reaching powers to lift secrecy. But for the release of documents there is a formal procedure with several highly official steps. Trump also claimed that there was a permanent corresponding instruction in place for all documents taken home.
On Monday, Trump filed a lawsuit against the government, demanding that a neutral examiner examine the most recently seized documents and that all investigations be halted until then. Trump’s taking of the documents could constitute a criminal act. The 76-year-old describes the Justice Department’s actions against him as politically motivated. For weeks he has been flirting with the idea of running for the presidency again in 2024.
Legal disputes are also currently ongoing as to whether at least some of the documents on which the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago was based could be made public. A Florida judge had ordered the Justice Department to make redaction proposals this week. Several media had requested the publication of the documents. However, the Justice Department had argued that this could affect future investigations and the cooperation of witnesses.