The FBI recovered “top secret” and even more sensitive documents from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, according to court papers released Friday after a federal judge unsealed the warrant that authorized the sudden, unprecedented search this week.
A property receipt unsealed by the court shows FBI agents took 11 sets of classified records from the estate during a search on Monday.
The seized records include some marked not only top secret but also “sensitive compartmented information,” a particular category meant to protect the nation’s most important secrets that, if revealed publicly, could cause “exceptionally serious” damage to U.S. interests. The court records did not provide specific details about the information the documents might contain.
The warrant says federal agents were investigating potential violations of three federal laws, including one that governs gathering, transmitting or losing defence information under the Espionage Act. The other statutes address the concealment, mutilation or removal of records and the destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.
The property receipt also shows federal agents collected other potential presidential records, including the order pardoning Trump ally Roger Stone, a “leatherbound box of documents,” and information about the “President of France.” A binder of photos, a handwritten note, “miscellaneous secret documents,” and “miscellaneous confidential documents” were also seized in the search.
Trump’s attorney, Christina Bobb, who was present at Mar-a-Lago when the agents searched, signed two property receipts — one that was two pages long and another that was a single page.
In a statement earlier Friday, Trump claimed that the documents seized by agents were “all declassified” and argued that he would have turned them over if the Justice Department had asked.
While incumbent presidents generally have the power to declassify information, that authority lapses as soon as they leave office. It was not clear if the documents in question had ever been declassified. And even an incumbent’s powers to declassify may be limited regarding secrets dealing with nuclear weapons programs, covert operations and operatives, and some data shared with allies.
Despite multiple requests from agencies, including the National Archives, Trump kept possession of the documents to turn in presidential records following federal law.
The Mar-a-Lago search warrant served Monday was part of an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the discovery of classified White House records recovered from Trump’s home earlier this year. The Archives had asked the department to investigate after saying 15 boxes of records it retrieved from the estate included classified documents.