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The FBI raided Mar-a-Lago, the Florida home of former President Donald Trump, this week. The FBI seized top-secret documents, according to a search warrant revealed by the court.
This is the first time a former president’s residence has been searched in a criminal investigation.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and said the items have been declassified.
The incident caused an uproar in the United States, causing fierce opposition from the right-wing, and even a Trump supporter armed with a weapon attempted to break into the FBI’s office in Ohio, and was subsequently killed in a confrontation with the police.
The Justice Department then asked the court to disclose the search warrant for the raid on Trump’s residence, a rare move for an ongoing investigation.
what the FBI is looking for
The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, said one of the items FBI agents were looking for at Mar-a-Lago were documents related to nuclear weapons.
On Friday afternoon (August 12), a U.S. federal judge released a seven-page document that included a search warrant authorizing the search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate and a list of items to be searched.
The list shows that Secret Service agents took 11 sets of documents, including some marked “TS/SCI,” a designation that indicates the documents could cause “particularly serious” damage to U.S. national security.
Documents released by the judge said more than 20 boxes of items were taken Monday (August 8), including a photo folder, a handwritten note, undisclosed information about the “President of France” and representatives of Trump. Letter of forgiveness written by longtime ally Roger Stone.
In addition to the four sets of top-secret documents, the batch includes three sets of “secret documents” and three sets of “confidential” materials.
what are the possible consequences
The search warrant shows that FBI agents are investigating possible violations of the Espionage Act, which makes it illegal to store or transmit potentially dangerous national security information.
The law prohibits the deletion of confidential documents or materials. Penalties for the crime have been increased under Trump and are now punishable by up to five years in prison.
The search warrant at Mar-a-Lago included an area and storage room called the “45 office,” but not the private suite used by Trump and his staff, according to the search warrant.
What did Trump say
On Friday night, Trump’s office issued a statement insisting that he exercised his authority to declassify the documents during his presidency.
“He has a standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office and brought into the residence are considered declassified,” the statement said.
“The authority to classify and declassify documents rests entirely with the President of the United States.”
“And the idea that some bureaucratic bureaucracy has the classification authority granted by the president and needs to approve declassification is absurd.”
Legal experts told U.S. media it was unclear whether that claim would hold up in court. “The president can declassify information, but they have to follow a procedure,” Tom Dupree, a lawyer who formerly worked at the Justice Department, told the BBC.
“They have to fill out forms. They have to give certain authorizations. They can’t simply say the documents were declassified. They have to follow a procedure, (and) it’s not clear if that procedure is being followed now.”
Mr. Trump’s spokesman, Taylor Budowich, said President Biden’s administration was “clearly making up for the losses after their failed blitz.”
Budovic accused the Biden administration of “leaving lies and insinuations in an attempt to justify the administration’s weaponization of its main political opponent.”
What is the reaction
Trump’s conservative allies also denounced the raid, calling it a political blow as Trump is considering running for president again in 2024.
Law enforcement agencies across the country are reportedly monitoring online threats against government officials following the FBI raid.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who personally approved the search warrant, defended the FBI agents on Thursday, calling them “dedicated, patriotic public servants.”
“When their integrity is being unfairly attacked, I don’t silently step aside,” he told reporters.
Trump investigation timeline
- January 2022 – The National Archives retrieves 15 boxes of White House records from Mar-a-Lago and says some of the documents it received at the end of the Trump administration have been torn up;
- February – The National Archives has asked the Department of Justice to investigate after reports of classified documents found in Mar-a-Lago’s archives;
- April – US media reports that the FBI has begun a preliminary investigation;
- June 3 – Trump says hello as a senior Justice Department official and three FBI agents reportedly head to Mar-a-Lago to inspect the contents of the basement;
- June 8 – FBI investigators reportedly wrote to a Trump aide asking for stronger locks to secure rooms where items are stored. Trump said the request was quickly met;
- June 22 – Trump’s agency reportedly received a subpoena from the Justice Department for surveillance footage of Mar-a-Lago;
- Aug. 8 – Dozens of agents raid Mar-a-Lago and seize more than 20 boxes, some of which are top-secret documents, according to a search warrant.