The FBI search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida home earlier this week found four sets of top-secret documents and seven other sets of classified information, according to a list of items seized in the high-profile raid and unsealed by a federal magistrate judge on Friday.
One set of documents is listed as “Various classified TS/SCI documents,” a reference to top secret/sensitive compartmented information, a highly classified category of government secrets, in addition to the four sets of top-secret papers. Agents also took three sets of documents classified as secret, and three sets of papers classified as confidential — the lowest level of classification.
The list of seized material doesn’t further describe the subject matter of any of the classified documents.
“Some of what was in Trump’s possession is mind-boggling,” said Javed Ali, a senior official at the National Security Council during the Trump administration who now teaches at the University of Michigan. “Whenever you leave government — including probably a former president — you can’t just take it with you.”
The Washington Post reported Thursday that FBI agents were looking for classified documents about nuclear weapons, among other items, according to people familiar with the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing case. The people did not offer additional details, such as whether the documents being sought involved weapons belonging to the United States or another nation.
In a statement early Friday, Trump called the nuclear weapons issue a “hoax” and suggested the FBI planted evidence, without offering information to indicate how such a thing had happened.
The warrant signed by a federal magistrate judge authorized FBI agents to search Trump’s office and any “storage rooms and all other rooms or areas within the premises used or available to be used by [the former president] and his staff and in which boxes or documents could be stored, including all structures or buildings on the estate.”
The warrant said it is seeking all “physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation of three potential crimes,” including a part of the Espionage Act outlawing gathering, transmitting, or losing national defense information. The warrant also cites destruction of records and concealment or mutilation of government material. The contents of the warrant and the inventory were first reported by the Wall Street Journal early Friday afternoon, before they were unsealed in court.
Later in the day, Trump posted on social media that the material “was all declassified” and that authorities “didn’t need to ‘seize’ anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago.” Sitting presidents do have broad authority to declassify information, but there is a formal process for doing so, and some declassifications require approval from additional government officials.
While the warrant clearly aimed to collect any classified material at Trump’s residence, office, and storage areas, it also authorized agents to collect any government or presidential records created during the Trump administration, as well as any evidence “of the knowing alteration, destruction, or concealment of any government and/or Presidential Records, or of any documents with classification markings.”
The first item listed on the property receipt is perhaps the oddest — an executive grant of clemency for Roger Stone, a longtime Trump friend who was convicted by a jury of seeking to impede a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Most of the items seized, though, are listed generically as “Box labeled A-15” or something similar, offering no clues about what they might contain. The receipt was signed by Christina Bobb, one of Trump’s lawyers.
The warrant was made public a day after Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department wanted it unsealed, insisting that officials had scrupulously followed the rules of federal investigations in executing the search and that the public had a right to see the document authorizing them to do so.
Hours after Garland’s announcement, Trump posted on social media that he supported unsealing the documents. He or his lawyers could have shared them publicly anytime since receiving them days ago.
Typically, search warrants speak in broad terms about what is to be searched, the purpose of the search, and the possible crimes being investigated. When the search is completed, investigators provide a list of property seized, but that also tends to be a general description of items, such as papers or boxes, without describing the particulars of what they contain. For most search warrants, the most detailed description of investigators’ suspicions and what they expect to find are provided in an affidavit from the agent requesting the warrant.
In this case, neither the government nor Trump proposed releasing the affidavit, which is likely to contain far more information about the case. But several news organizations have made that request, and the judge overseeing the case has given the government until 5 p.m. Monday to respond to their motions.
The court-approved search of Trump’s residence caused a political furor, with Trump and many of his Republican defenders accusing the FBI of acting out of politically motivated malice. Some have threatened the agency on social media, and on Thursday, an armed man stormed the security entrance at the FBI building in Cincinnati. Police pursued him and he was eventually shot and killed by police. Authorities are investigating his possible ties to extremist groups, including the Proud Boys.
The Justice Department’s investigation into the Mar-a-Lago documents began months ago when the National Archives and Records Administration sought the return of material taken there from the White House. The material included 15 boxes of documents and items, some of them marked as classified.
This spring, Trump’s team received a grand jury subpoena in connection with the documents investigation, two people familiar with the investigation, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details, confirmed to The Post on Thursday. Investigators visited Mar-a-Lago in the weeks following the issuance of the subpoena, and Trump’s team handed over some materials.
People familiar with the probe have said it is focused on whether the former president or his aides withheld classified or other government material that should have been returned to government custody earlier. The people, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation, said that as authorities engaged in months of discussions on the subject, some officials came to suspect the Trump team was not being truthful.
Material about nuclear weapons is especially sensitive and usually restricted to a small number of government officials, experts have said. Publicizing details about U.S. weapons could provide an intelligence road map to adversaries seeking to build ways of countering those systems. And other countries might view exposing their nuclear secrets as a threat, experts said.
In one of his social media statements early Friday, Trump complained that agents did not allow his lawyers to be present for the search, which is not unusual in a law enforcement operation, especially if it potentially involves classified items. A second statement by the former president claimed his predecessor, Barack Obama, kept sensitive documents after leaving the White House. “How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!” Trump wrote.
The National Archives and Records Administration issued a statement pushing back on that accusation, saying that the agency had, as required, obtained “exclusive legal and physical custody” of Obama’s records when he left office in 2017. It said that about 30 million pages of unclassified records were transferred to a NARA facility in the Chicago area and that they continue to be maintained “exclusively by NARA.”
Classified records from the Obama administration are kept in a NARA facility in Washington, the statement said.
The Jan. 6 insurrection
Congressional hearings: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held a series of high-profile hearings to share its findings with the U.S. public. In what was likely its final hearing, the committee issued a surprise subpoena seeking testimony from former president Donald Trump. Here’s a guide to the biggest hearing moments so far.
Will there be charges? The committee could make criminal referrals of former president Donald Trump over his role in the attack, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in an interview.
The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.
Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6.