In a search conducted at the former US President Donald Trump’s Florida home, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recovered 11 sets of classified documents including some marked as top secret, the Justice Department informed on Friday, according to news agency Reuters. The FBI stated the probable cause to conduct the search was possible Espionage Act violations.
It’s a crime to release information that could harm national security according to the Espionage Act, one of three laws cited in the warrant application that dates back to 1917.
What triggred the search operations?
The search operations were conducted as part of a federal investigation into whether Trump illegally removed documents when he left office in January 2021 after getting defeated in the presidential election two months earlier to Democrat Joe Biden.
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The Mar-a-Lago search warrant approved by a US magistrate judge served Monday was followed by the ongoing Justice Department investigation into the discovery of classified White House records recovered from Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida, earlier this year.
What’s Trump’s claim?
In a statement on his social media platform, Trump said the records were “all declassified” and placed in “secure storage.” The former president claimed “they didn’t need to ‘seize’ anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago.”
In messages posted on his Truth Social platform, Trump wrote, “Not only will I not oppose the release of documents … I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents.”
Even as the FBI on Monday removed the material labeled as classified, the three laws cited as the basis for the warrant make it a crime to mishandle government records, regardless of whether they are classified. Trump’s claims that he declassified the documents would have no bearing on the potential legal violations at issue.
What items are recovered?
The decision whether to unseal the records lay with US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the same judge who signed off on the search warrant. FBI agents have taken more than 30 items including over 20 boxes, binders of photos, a handwritten note and the executive grant of clemency for Trump’s ally and longtime adviser Roger Stone.