During this week’s search of former US President Donald Trump’s Florida home, FBI agents removed 11 sets of classified documents, some of which were marked as top secret, the Justice Department said on Friday. It also revealed that it had probable cause to conduct the search due to potential Espionage Act violations.
Four days after agents raided President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, the search warrant and its accompanying records, which were approved by a U.S. magistrate court, were made public.
The 1917 Espionage Act, one of three crimes included in the warrant application, makes it unlawful to release that can jeopardize national security.
Trump, in a statement on his social media platform, said the records were “all declassified” and placed in “secure storage.”
“They didn’t need to ‘seize’ anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago,” the Republican businessman-turned-politician said.
The search was carried out as part of a federal investigation into whether Trump illegally removed documents when he left office in January 2021 after losing the presidential election two months earlier to Democrat Joe Biden.
Although the FBI on Monday carted away 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. As such, Trump’s claims that he declassified the documents would have no bearing on the potential legal violations at issue.
FBI agents took more than 30 items including more than 20 boxes, binders of photos, a handwritten note and the executive grant of clemency for Trump’s ally and longtime adviser Roger Stone, a list of items removed showed. Also included in the list was information about the “President of France.”
The warrant showed that FBI agents were asked to search a room called “the 45 Office” – Trump was the 45th U.S. president – as well as all other rooms and structures or buildings on the estate used by Trump or his staff where boxes or documents could be stored.
The Justice Department said in the warrant application approved by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart that it had probable cause to believe violations of the Espionage Act had occurred at Trump’s home.
That law was initially enacted to combat spying. Prosecutions under it were relatively uncommon until the Justice Department ramped up its use under both Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama to go after leakers of national security information, including leaks to the news media.
The part of the law stated in the warrant forbids unlawful possession of national security information.
However, It did not describe the specifics of the grounds for the suspicion that such a violation took place.
Recent high-profile cases involving former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have included the Justice Department using the Espionage Act.
The application also stated probable cause of possible violations of two additional statutes that make it unlawful to conceal or destroy official U.S. documents.
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SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES