Newly unsealed search warrants related to the FBI’s Monday raid at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida show the former president is being investigated by the Department of Justice for potential violations of the Espionage Act, mishandling government documents, and obstruction of justice.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday that federal prosecutors had filed a motion in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida to request the search warrant and an FBI property receipt listing the items taken from the estate be unsealed for the public. Trump, who first announced the FBI search in a statement on Monday night, subsequently said he had no objection to their release.
The documents, which began being published by several media outlets prior to their unsealing by the court, reveal new details about the extraordinary investigation into the former president, who is suspected of having improperly taken documents and souvenirs with him when he vacated the White House.
Per the search warrant, Trump is under investigation for gathering, transmitting, or losing defense information (an Espionage Act violation); concealment, removal, or mutilation generally of government documents; and destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations. Violations of these statutes can lead to imprisonment and fines.
Per the unsealed FBI receipt, the contents of which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, agents removed 11 sets of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago, including some marked with the highest level of government classification. Other items seized included photos, the executive clemency grant to Trump ally Roger Stone, and a document with information on French President Emmanuel Macron.
The Washington Post reported Thursday night that classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items being searched for by the FBI agents.
The documents show agents intended to search the former president’s office and storage rooms, but not any private guest suites at the 17-acre club, which has 58 bedrooms and 33 bathrooms.
In a series of blustering statements on Friday, the former president, who campaigned for the White House by calling for rival Hillary Clinton to be locked up for her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, attempted to cast the investigation into his actions as being politically motivated.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that the DOJ had sent Trump a subpoena to hand over the documents at issue and then subsequently asked a federal judge to approve a search warrant when he failed to do so.
Despite this, Trump said investigators could have requested the documents, which he said were securely stored at his palatial Florida compound.
“They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago,” Trump said in a statement. “It was in secured storage, with an additional lock put on as per their request. They could have had it anytime they wanted—and that includes LONG ago. ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS ASK.”
He also sought to shift attention to former president Barack Obama — whom Trump referred to in a statement using his middle name, Hussein, in an apparent attempt to stoke the racist and anti-Muslim rhetoric that spurred his national political emergence — by accusing him of taking millions of pages of classified documents when he left office.
“How many of them pertained to nuclear?” Trump said. “Word is, lots!”
In response, the National Archives and Records Administration released a statement stating that it had moved approximately 30 million pages of unclassified records to its facilities in Chicago and Washington, DC, where Obama has no control over where and how they are stored or managed.
Trump has also attempted to argue that he himself declassified the documents he took with him when he was president, but there is a formal federal process for doing so.
Allies of the former president, who has teased another run for the White House in 2024, have suggested without evidence that the Biden administration is orchestrating the investigations. Representatives for Biden have said he has been unaware of the probe, which is being handled independently by the attorney general and his staff, as is custom.
Garland said Thursday that he personally approved the decision to request a search warrant and defended the investigation’s integrity. “Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor,” Garland said. “Under my watch, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing."
Apparently undeterred by the fallout from false claims of election fraud that compelled his supporters to attack the US Capitol, Trump and his allies have again used apocalyptic rhetoric to describe the legal storm that has enveloped him.
A campaign fundraising email to supporters on Friday from Donald Trump Jr. warned that the “nation is on the line.”
“Biden and the Democrats are following in the footsteps of all the 3rd world Communist Dictators that the Left worships,” Trump Jr. wrote. “Their out-of-control Department of Justice is ripping this Country apart with how they're openly targeting their political enemies.”
That statement came a day after a Trump supporter attacked an FBI building in Cincinnati before being shot dead by authorities. The man, Ricky Shiffer, had participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection and had written on Trump’s Truth Social website that he intended to avenge the former president.
"Well, I thought I had a way through bullet proof glass, and I didn't," Shiffer posted on the website while he was in a standoff with authorities on Friday. "If you don't hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I., and it'll mean either I was taken off the internet, the F.B.I. got me, or they sent the regular cops while."