The FBI seized several top-secret documents during a search of former US President Donald Trump’s Florida home. This emerges from the receipt for the confiscated items, which a court in the US state of Florida published together with the search warrant on Friday at the request of US Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Trump had previously claimed on the social network Truth Social, which he co-founded, that all documents had been released, i.e. the secrecy had been lifted.
According to the FBI list, agents last Monday found a set of Top Secret/SCI documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, which are top secret and can only be viewed at special government facilities. Four of the confiscated sets of documents were classified as “Top Secret”, three more as “Secret” and the remaining three as “Confidential”.
The search warrant lists three criminal offenses as possible grounds for possible seizures: collecting, transmitting or losing defense information, removing or destroying official documents, and destroying or altering documents to impede investigations. The first count – which falls under the US Espionage Act – carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, the second up to three years and the third up to 20 years.
However, legal experts pointed out that the mention of the anti-espionage law in the search warrant does not necessarily mean that Trump faces espionage charges.
The law “covers a bunch of crimes unrelated to espionage,” Bradley Moss, a security attorney, wrote on Twitter. The law deals with the “unlawful retention of information relating to national defense”.
In addition to the search warrant, a list of the documents confiscated was also published. Accordingly, some of the documents confiscated in Mar-a-Lago “should only have been accessible in special government institutions”. Among other things, these documents contained information about the President of France, Emmanuel Macron.
According to the list, the agents also confiscated numerous boxes and also a pardon for Trump confidante Roger Stone, who had been sentenced to 40 months in prison in the course of the affair about alleged Russian election interference in favor of Trump.
The US Department of Justice, which is also the country’s top law enforcement agency, asked a federal judge on Friday to clear the search warrant.
Trump had rejected a media report on Friday that the FBI was also looking for classified documents about nuclear weapons. “The nuclear weapons issue is a hoax,” Trump wrote on the social media platform Truth Social, which he co-founded. “The same shoddy people are involved,” he said, referring to the two impeachment trials and the Mueller investigation. Trump did not provide any evidence for his statements.
Those involved in the raid said FBI officials were looking for evidence that Trump illegally took government documents from the White House when he left office in January 2021.
Attorney General Merrick Garland stressed on Thursday that the presumption of innocence applies. At the same time, he underlined that a federal court had authorized the search “after the necessary determination of sufficient suspicion”. “I personally endorsed the decision to seek a search warrant.” Trump had accused his successor Joe Biden’s administration of using the FBI for political ends.
According to the White House, Biden did not know in advance about the search of the Trump property. The process is considered unprecedented in US history. Trump was not at his home during the search.
Garland justified the request for publication of the search warrant and the receipt, among other things, with the public interest.
The US National Archives, which is responsible for storing presidential documents, meanwhile contradicted Trump’s claim that his predecessor Barack Obama kept secret documents after his departure. According to the legal requirements, after Obama left office in 2017, the National Archives “assumed the exclusive legal and physical custody of the Obama presidential records,” the state institution said on Friday. About 30 million pages of non-classified documents are kept in the Chicago area. Classified information would be kept in Washington.
Trump wrote on Truth Social on Friday that had the authorities asked him about it, he would have given them all the documents. “The bigger problem is what are they going to do with the 33 million pages of documents, many classified, that President Obama took with him to Chicago?” he wrote in the same message. Trump had previously made the same claim without providing any supporting evidence.
In general, the truthfulness of Trump’s statements is disputed. The Washington Post fact-checkers had proven that Trump made more than 30,000 false or misleading statements during his four-year term from 2017 to 2021.
The raid has caused anger and outrage in right-wing circles. Several senior politicians from Trump’s Republican Party to former Vice President Mike Pence accused the Justice Department of a political motive.
There have been threats of violence against the FBI in online forums, which its director Christopher Wray described as “reprehensible and dangerous”. Against this background, an incident on Thursday in Cincinnati, Ohio, caused a particularly great sensation.
According to the FBI, a man had tried to break into a federal police office there. After a chase, the man then pointed his gun at the police officers, who then shot him.