FBI Recovers Eleven Sets of Classified Documents in Trump Search, Inventory Shows

FBI Recovers Eleven Sets of Classified Documents in Trump Search, Inventory Shows

FBI agents who searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home on Monday removed 11 classified documents, some of which were marked top secret and were available only to special government facilities, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents took about 20 boxes of items, photo binders, a handwritten note and an executive grant of clemency for Roger Stone, an ally of Mr. Trump, a list of items removed from the property show. The list also included information about the “President of France,” according to the three-page listing. The list is contained in a seven-page document that also includes a search warrant for the premises issued by a federal magistrate judge in Florida.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a briefing that the Justice Department is asking a Florida judge to release FBI agents’ warrants to search former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

The list refers to a set of documents identified as “Miscellaneous Classified/TS/SCI Documents”, an acronym that refers to Top-Secret/Sensitive classified information. It also said the agents collected four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents and three sets of classified documents. The list did not provide further details about the document’s content.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers argue that the former president used his authority to release the material before he left office. Although a president has the power to declassify documents, there are federal regulations that create a process for doing so.

Former President Donald Trump said FBI agents “raided” his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida on Monday and broke into a safe. The search was part of an investigation into his handling of classified information, people familiar with the matter said. Photo: Cristobal Herrera-Ulaskevic/Shutterstock

“The Biden administration is clearly in damage control after their botched raid in which they seized the president’s photo book, a ‘handwritten note’ and declassified documents,” Trump spokeswoman Taylor Budovich said. “This raid on President Trump’s home was not only unprecedented, it was unnecessary.”

The search and seizure warrant signed by US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart shows that FBI agents wanted to search “45 offices” as well as “all storage rooms and all other rooms or areas used or available for use within the premises.” [the former president] and his staff and the boxes or documents in which they may be stored, including all structures or buildings of the estate.”

They did not want access to search private guest rooms like Mar-a-Lago members, according to the documents.

Former President Donald Trump, leaving Trump Tower in New York on Wednesday, said he would not oppose the release of the search warrant.


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Julia Nikhinson/Associated Press

The former president and his team do not have affidavits, which would provide more details about the FBI’s investigation, according to people familiar with the process. An affidavit will explain, including witnesses, what evidence the government collected and why investigators believe a crime may have been committed. Mr Trump’s lawyers have sought a more precise account of what was removed from Mar-a-Lago.

The release and inventory of warrants marks the end of an extraordinary week, which began last Friday at 12:12 p.m., when a judge signed an unprecedented warrant to search the home of a former president. Three days later, at 6:19 p.m., one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Christina Bobb, signed a receipt for the items the FBI had taken that day.

To the Justice Department, the search is the result of a months-long effort to obtain classified documents in Mr. Trump’s possession after at least two prior attempts. They were initially interested in securing the documents, but pursued a criminal investigation because they began to suspect that Mr. Trump’s team had been candid about the documents they had in their possession, people familiar with the matter said.

To Mr. Trump’s allies, the search was a heavy-handed approach to obtaining documents that they say Mr. Trump is willing to return and was in the process of negotiating to return. Mr. Trump, in a post on his social-media platform on Thursday, said his representatives were “fully cooperating” and added, “The government could have gotten what it wanted, if we had.”

It’s unclear how the investigation might progress and whether prosecutors are considering bringing any charges against Mr. Trump or others in the probe now that the documents have been recovered.

The warrant states that investigators are seeking all records that may be evidence of violations of laws governing assembly, transmission or loss of classified information; removal of official government records; and destruction of records in federal investigations.

There are three main levels of US government classification. In ascending order, the levels are Secret, Secret and Top Secret. They are designed to reflect how sensitive a document’s underlying content is considered, meaning a breach of a higher classification level could potentially cause more harm to national security.

SCI documents are generally reserved for the military, civilians with special clearances, and contractor personnel who work in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility or SCIF, including those responsible for the security of the SCIF.

As the investigation progressed, someone familiar with the archived documents told investigators there may be more sensitive documents on the premises beyond what they had already obtained in January and June, people familiar with the matter said.

It is not known when the documents stored at Mar-a-Lago arrived during Mr. Trump’s presidency or when he left office.

Mr. Stone did not immediately respond for comment.

Mr. Trump, while in office, regularly clashed publicly with French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter over various policy disagreements, particularly on trade and Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. In private, Mr. Trump has told aides that he believes Mr. Macron is a “leaker” and untrustworthy, according to several former officials. The French embassy did not immediately respond for comment.

write down Alex Leary at alex.leary@wsj.com, Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com, and Sadie Gurman at sadie.gurman@wsj.com

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