The US Justice Department has confirmed Friday that the FBI agents who searched former President Donald Trump’s Florida home this week removed 11 sets of classified documents including some marked as top secret, while also disclosing that prosecutors had probable cause to believe Trump may have violated the Espionage Act.
The bombshell disclosures were made in a search warrant and accompanying legal documents released four days after FBI agents carried out the search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach based on a warrant approved by a federal magistrate judge.
Trump, in a statement on his social media platform, said the records at issue were “all declassified” and placed in “secure storage.”
“They didn’t need to ‘seize’ anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago,” the Republican businessman-turned-politician said.
The Justice Department said in the warrant application approved by US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart that it had probable cause to believe that Trump may have violated the Espionage Act, a federal law that prohibits the possession or transmission of national defense information.
The department also said it had concerns he may have broken several other statutes related to the mishandling of government records including one that makes it a crime to try to hide or destroy government documents regardless of whether they are classified.
FBI agents took more than 30 items including more than 20 boxes, binders of photos, a handwritten note and the executive grant of clemency for Trump’s ally and longtime adviser Roger Stone, a list of items removed from the property showed. Also included in the list was information about the “President of France.”
The warrant showed that FBI agents asked to search a room called “the 45 Office” – Trump was the 45th US president – as well as all other rooms, structures of buildings on the estate used by Trump or his staff where boxes or documents could be stored.
There are three primary levels of classification for sensitive government materials: Top secret, secret, and confidential.
“Top secret” is the highest level of classification, reserved for the country’s most closely held national security information. Such documents usually are kept in special government facilities because disclosure could cause grave damage to national security.
FBI agents on Monday collected four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents and three sets of confidential documents, the documents showed. They also showed that agents collected a set of documents labeled “classified/TS/SCI documents” – a reference to top secret and sensitive compartmented material.
While a sitting president has authority to declassify materials, there was no indication in any of the documents released on Friday that Trump had done so prior to leaving office in January 2021.