Saturday, August 13, 2022

Search Warrant of the century unsealed . . . Espionage Act revealed

Federal agents removed top secret documents when they searched former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida residence as part of an investigation into possible violations of the Espionage Act and other laws, according to a search warrant made public, reported The New York Times.

F.B.I. agents seized 11 sets of documents in all, including some marked as “classified/TS/SCI” — shorthand for “top secret/sensitive compartmented information,” according to an inventory of the materials seized in the search. Information categorized in that fashion is meant to be viewed only in a secure government facility.

It was the latest stunning revelation from the series of investigations swirling around his efforts to retain power after his election loss, his business practices and, in this case, his handling of government material that he took with him when he left the White House.

The results of the search showed that material designated as closely guarded national secrets was being held at an unsecured resort club, Mar-a-Lago, owned and occupied by a former president who has long shown a disdain for careful handling of classified information.

The documents released on Friday also made clear for the first time the gravity of the possible crimes under investigation in an inquiry that has generated denunciations of the Justice Department and the F.B.I. from prominent Republicans and fueled the anger of Mr. Trump, a likely 2024 presidential candidate.

A federal judge on Friday unsealed the search warrant for former President Donald J. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Fla., as well as a list of items removed from the property when federal agents executed the warrant this week.

In total, agents collected four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents and three sets of confidential documents, the inventory showed. Also taken by the F.B.I. agents were files pertaining to the pardon of Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime associate of Mr. Trump, and material about President Emmanuel Macron of France — along with more than a dozen boxes labeled only by number.

The disclosure of the search warrant and the inventory made clear the stakes of the collision between a Justice Department saying it is intent on enforcing federal law at the highest levels and a former president whose norm-shattering behavior includes exhibiting a proprietary view of material that legally belongs to the government.

It is not clear why Mr. Trump apparently chose to hang onto materials that would ignite another legal firestorm around him. But last year, he told close associates that he regarded some presidential documents as his own personal property. When speaking about his friendly correspondence with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Mr. Trump said, “They’re mine,” according to a person familiar with the exchange.

Even though the F.B.I.’s inventory of materials seized from Mar-a-Lago indicated that numerous files had markings like “top secret,” Mr. Trump said on Friday that he had declassified all the material. Presidents wield sweeping power to declassify documents, although normally when that happens such markings are removed.

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