The Justice Department sought a warrant to search Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home earlier this month after receiving evidence that “efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation” of classified documents, according to a scathing court filing from federal prosecutors late Tuesday. The 36-page document provides the most detailed picture yet of what led the to the extraordinary August 8 search of the former president’s residence. It says that in late spring, Trump and his attorneys claimed they had performed a “diligent search” in response to a grand jury subpoena for classified documents; they even attested in writing that they had turned over “any and all” requested materials. But prosecutors came to suspect that “government records were likely concealed and removed” from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago, and the FBI’s subsequent search uncovered twice as many classified documents as Trump had turned over.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far about the investigation of the former president and the aftermath of the stunning Mar-a-Lago raid.

In January, the National Archives and Records Administration retrieved 15 boxes of documents and items from Mar-a-Lago that agency officials said Trump should have handed over to it when he left the White House. NARA reportedly found 150 classified documents among the materials it retrieved — including over 700 pages of classified material and “special access program materials,” one of the highest designations. The agency alerted the Justice Department, which opened a grand-jury investigation into the matter. The January cache included documents pertaining to national security from the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the FBI. In late 2021, Trump had gone through the boxes himself.

Christina Bobb, a Trump lawyer and onetime OAN anchor, said the former president’s legal team was in contact with the Justice Department about the investigation this spring. John Solomon, a conservative journalist who Trump designated as one of his representatives to NARA, revealed that the former president received a grand-jury subpoena for classified documents in late May. The Trump team appeared to be cooperating, turning over materials and surveillance footage that showed who had access to the area where they were stored. Trump’s attorneys arranged for a DOJ National Security Division prosecutor and three FBI agents to come to Mar-a-Lago on June 3 and pick up the items listed in the subpoena. Here’s the Post’s account of the meeting:

In June, Bobb said, she and Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran met with Jay Bratt, the chief of the counterintelligence and export control section at the Justice Department, along with several investigators. Trump stopped by the meeting as it began, to greet the investigators, but was not interviewed. The lawyers showed the federal officials the boxes, and Bratt and the others spent some time looking through the material.


Bobb said the Justice Department officials commented that they did not believe the storage unit was properly secured, so Trump officials added a lock to the facility. When FBI agents searched the property Monday, Bobb added, they broke through the lock that had been added to the door.

Federal prosecutors’ August 30 court filing says that when they produced these documents no one on Trump’s team “asserted that the former President had declassified the documents or asserted any claim of executive privilege.” Instead, the attorneys “handled them in a manner that suggested counsel believed that the documents were classified: the production included a single Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in tape, containing the documents.” One of Trump’s attorneys, who was serving as the formal “custodian” of the files,” provided a signed certification letter swearing that a “a diligent search was conducted of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida,” and “any and all responsive documents accompany this certification.” (The attorney’s name was redacted in official documents, but the New York Times reports it was Bobb.)

Trump associates have claimed that they were shocked when their cordial interactions with the DOJ ended in a raid. But according to The Wall Street Journal, sometime after June 3, a mole in Trump’s orbit told the FBI that the former president’s team was still withholding information:

In the following weeks, however, someone familiar with the stored papers told investigators there may be still more classified documents at the private club after the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes earlier in the year, people familiar with the matter said.

DOJ’s August 30 filing said “the FBI uncovered multiple sources of evidence” indicating that Trump had not fully complied with the subpoena. “The government also developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” it continued.

With this new information in hand, the Justice Department filed for a warrant to search the premises for any remaining classified documents and records. According to people familiar with the investigation who spoke with the Journal, the decision to conduct the raid “had been the subject of weeks of meetings between senior Justice Department and FBI officials.”

The filing included a photograph that shows some of the material found by investigators at Mar-a-Lago.

NEWS: DOJ's new filing includes. photo of the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8. https://t.co/nm567c96bi pic.twitter.com/0U2hoSogxQ

The photo seems to confirm that the files recovered from Trump’s office were extremely sensitive, as the Washington Post explains:

Among the most incriminating details in the government filing is a photograph, showing a number of files labeled “Top Secret” with bright red or yellow cover sheets, spread out over a carpet. Those files were found inside a container in Trump’s office, according to the court filing. A close examination of one of the cover sheets in the photo shows a marking for “HCS,” a government acronym for systems used to protect intelligence gathered from secret human sources.

The filing was made in response to Trump’s request for a special master to review the documents that were seized. The Department of Justice stated that the former president “lacks standing to seek judicial relief or oversight as to Presidential records because those records do not belong to him.”

The search of Mar-a-Lago began at 9 a.m. on August 8. The Secret Service was reportedly notified right beforehand and “facilitated access to the Florida Trump property as fellow federal agents but did not take part in investigation or search,” per NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell. The Feds, who were in plainclothes, reportedly left around 6:30 p.m. Mar-a-Lago is currently closed to members on account of the summer heat in Florida. The White House said it first learned of the search from reports.

While Trump depicted the search as a Watergate-like break-in by the Feds, the scene was pretty subdued, according to the New York Times:

The agents carried out the search in a relatively low-key manner, people with knowledge of the matter said; by some accounts they were not seen donning the conspicuous navy-blue jackets with the agency’s initials emblazoned on the back that are commonly worn when executing search warrants.


Another person familiar with the search said agents began going through a storage unit, where items like beach chairs and umbrellas are kept, in the basement. They progressed to his office, which was built for him on the second floor of the main house, where they cracked a hotel-style safe that was said by two people briefed on the search to contain nothing of consequence to the agents.


Then they moved to Mr. Trump’s residence, the person said.

Former aides tell New York they recall a safe at Mar-a-Lago and another at Trump Tower in Manhattan, where Trump kept tens of thousands of dollars in cash, which he once scooped into a shopping bag before traveling. The FBI reportedly had to break into the hotel-style safe, which is in his office, a former bridal suite above the estate’s ballroom.

Trump was notorious for mishandling and/or destroying documents during his presidency. Some White House records obtained by the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection had been torn up and taped back together. The former president reportedly liked to try to flush documents down the toilet. A senior administration official once told the Washington Post that White House staff members made sure they never left documents containing classified or sensitive information with Trump.

The agents who searched Mar-a-Lago found documents in a basement storage area and in Trump’s office closet. The receipt of property attached to the search warrant, which lists what the FBI took from the premises, includes dozens of entries. Eleven of those entries refer to classified materials ranging from most to least classified. One entry contains “various classified/TS/SCI documents,” which by law must be kept in a secure government facility akin to a vault. There are four sets of top-secret documents, three of secret documents, and three of confidential documents.

On September 2, the Justice Department made public a detailed inventory of what the FBI agents seized. It indicated that they also found 43 empty folders with classified banners, in addition more than 10,000 government records with no classification markings. It’s not clear what documents were in the empty folders, or what happened to them.

This year, in total, more than 300 documents with classified information have been retrieved from Mar-a-Lago, according to the New York Times. Investigators are reportedly now seeking additional surveillance footage from the resort.

On August 11, the Washington Post reported that agents believed some of the documents they went to look for involved nuclear weapons, but this was before the search, and it is not known if such documents were recovered. It was also not clear whether they pertain to U.S. weapons or those of a foreign country or what the precise sensitivity of the documents was. In response to the reporting, Trump said on Truth Social that the “nuclear weapons issue is a hoax.”

The FBI also recovered an executive grant of clemency for Roger Stone (granted before Trump left office), “info re: President of France,” a handwritten note, a leather-bound box of documents, and binders of photos.

On August 26, the Department of Justice released a partially redacted version of the 38-page affidavit it used to obtain a search warrant. The document says 14 out of the 15 boxes retrieved from Mar-a-Lago prior to the raid contained classified records. Twenty-five documents had information on “clandestine human sources” that would have exposed the identities of people working for the U.S. intelligence community if released. FBI agents who reviewed the classified information saw evidence that it was being mishandled: Many classified documents were mixed in with “miscellaneous” papers, including newspapers and magazines.

The affidavit also states “there is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found” at Mar-a-Lago.

Roughly half the document is redacted, either to obscure information on national security, keep details of the investigation under wraps, or to protect the identities of those involved amid concerns about witness intimidation. The Justice Department states that redactions are required to protect “a broad range of civilian witnesses,” suggesting some figures in Trump world
may be communicating with the FBI.

After the affidavit was released, Trump called it a “total public relations subterfuge” and noted that it does not include the word “nuclear.”

The search was related to potential violations of three laws including the Espionage Act: One of the laws concerns the “concealment, removal or mutilation” of classified materials; the second, “gathering, transmitting or losing” materials; and the third, obstructing an investigation into these matters. The Espionage Act, which governs classified information that could harm national security if released, has been used to prosecute both foreign spies and domestic leakers from Daniel Ellsberg to Reality Winner. The warrant, which does not list Trump by name, does not accuse him or any other individual of breaking the law.

The warrant goes on to describe the premises of “FPOTUS” (former president of the U.S.) being searched and what sorts of items federal agents were seeking.

The former president was the first to break the news of the raid on August 8, releasing a written statement that evening in which he attempted to frame the search as an unjustified, politically motivated attack on him by the Biden administration and Democrats. As more details have emerged about the raid, Trump and his allies have made a number of additional claims.

Declassification.
Trump and allies have maintained that none of the documents taken to Mar-a-Lago were classified because Trump, as president, had orally bulk-declassified everything he wanted to take home shortly before leaving office. There was, according to one Trump representative, a “standing order” that “documents removed from the Oval Office and taken to the residence were deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them.” As the New York Times’ Charlie Savage has explained, even if that is true and there is some evidence of his having done this, that doesn’t mean it was legal for him to take the documents home and keep them. The argument, Savage notes, is legally irrelevant to the matter at hand.

Targeting the FBI and DOJ.
Trump has repeatedly attacked the FBI and Justice Department, alleging that the search was improperly conducted, insinuating that the FBI agents planted evidence, and complaining that agents made a mess of his wife’s closets. Trump also claimed that the FBI seized his passports.

His allies have followed suit. The night of the raid, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy vowed to investigate Garland’s handling of the matter if the GOP regains control of the House next year. One Florida lawmaker, State Representative Anthony Sabatini, went as far as calling for the state to “sever all ties with DOJ immediately” and arrest FBI agents carrying out law-enforcement functions “upon sight.”

Stolen passports.
On August 15, Trump alleged that the FBI “stole my three Passports (one expired), along with everything else.” But according to an email from the Justice Department to Trump’s lawyers, sent shortly before Trump made his allegation, the DOJ had already said it was returning them by that point. “We have learned that the filter agents seized three passports belonging to President Trump, two expired and one being his active diplomatic passport,” a Justice Department official wrote. “We are returning them, and they will be ready for pickup at WFO at 2 pm today,” referring to the Washington Field Office.

Trump implied he learned it from watching Obama.
Trump has also alleged, falsely, that Barack Obama improperly took millions of White House documents to Chicago after his presidency ended. In fact, NARA responded, Obama and his staff followed the rules, and the agency has maintained full control of the records Trump alluded to — which will eventually be stored at Obama’s presidential library.

The allegations Trump and his allies directed at the FBI and Justice Department have led to a spike in threats against law enforcement. On August 14, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a joint bulletin warning that they “have observed an increase in threats to federal law enforcement and to a lesser extent other law enforcement and government officials” since the raid. The judge who signed the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago has also reportedly been subject to threats. And on August 11, a gunman who had been a January 6 protester at the U.S. Capitol in 2021 tried to attack the FBI’s office in Cincinnati before being killed by police.

This post has been updated throughout.

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Top-Secret Documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago: What We Know

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02.09.2022

The Justice Department sought a warrant to search Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home earlier this month after receiving evidence that “efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation” of classified documents, according to a scathing court filing from federal prosecutors late Tuesday. The 36-page document provides the most detailed picture yet of what led the to the extraordinary August 8 search of the former president’s residence. It says that in late spring, Trump and his attorneys claimed they had performed a “diligent search” in response to a grand jury subpoena for classified documents; they even attested in writing that they had turned over “any and all” requested materials. But prosecutors came to suspect that “government records were likely concealed and removed” from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago, and the FBI’s subsequent search uncovered twice as many classified documents as Trump had turned over.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far about the investigation of the former president and the aftermath of the stunning Mar-a-Lago raid.

In January, the National Archives and Records Administration retrieved 15 boxes of documents and items from Mar-a-Lago that agency officials said Trump should have handed over to it when he left the White House. NARA reportedly found 150 classified documents among the materials it retrieved — including over 700 pages of classified material and “special access program materials,” one of the highest designations. The agency alerted the Justice Department, which opened a grand-jury investigation into the matter. The January cache included documents pertaining to national security from the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the FBI. In late 2021, Trump had gone through the boxes himself.

Christina Bobb, a Trump lawyer and onetime OAN anchor, said the former president’s legal team was in contact with the Justice Department about the investigation this spring. John Solomon, a conservative journalist who Trump designated as one of his representatives to NARA, revealed that the former president received a grand-jury subpoena for classified documents in late May. The Trump team appeared to be cooperating, turning over materials and surveillance footage that showed who had access to the area where they were stored. Trump’s attorneys arranged for a DOJ National Security Division prosecutor and three FBI agents to come to Mar-a-Lago on June 3 and pick up the items listed in the subpoena. Here’s the Post’s account of the meeting:

In June, Bobb said, she and Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran met with Jay Bratt, the chief of the counterintelligence and export control section at the Justice Department, along with several investigators. Trump stopped by the meeting as it began, to greet the investigators, but was not interviewed. The lawyers showed the federal officials the boxes, and Bratt and the others spent some time looking through the material.


Bobb said the Justice Department officials commented that they did not believe the storage unit was properly secured, so Trump officials added a lock to the facility. When FBI agents searched the property Monday, Bobb added, they broke through the lock that had been added to the door.

Federal prosecutors’ August 30 court filing says that when they produced these documents no one on Trump’s team “asserted that the former President had declassified the documents or asserted any claim of executive privilege.” Instead, the attorneys “handled them in a manner that suggested counsel believed that the documents were classified: the production included a single Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in tape, containing the documents.” One of Trump’s attorneys, who was serving as the formal “custodian” of the files,” provided a signed certification letter swearing that a “a diligent search was conducted of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida,” and “any and all responsive documents accompany this certification.” (The attorney’s name was redacted in official documents, but the New York Times reports it was Bobb.)

Trump associates have claimed........

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