Yesterday, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) sought to unseal the search warrant that precipitated the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump’s resort home in Florida. Earlier reporting indicated that the search had to do with sensitive documents Trump had taken from the White House after his term ended.
Hours after Garland’s press conference, The Washington Post reported that among the material seized in the raid, agents discovered “Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons,” which experts characterized as “especially sensitive and usually restricted to a small number of government officials.”
Trump criticized the Post‘s report as a “hoax, just like Russia, Russia, Russia was a hoax.”
This afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that it had reviewed documents relating to the raid: In all, investigators removed 20 boxes of material comprising 11 sets of classified documents, “including some marked as top secret and meant to be only available in special government facilities.” Fox News later confirmed the report based on its own review of the documents. Neither outlet had access to the actual contents of any of the documents.
In all, the records purportedly show that Trump was in possession of a tranche of documents that included those deemed top secret, the government’s highest level of classification, as well as those designated “sensitive compartmented information” (SCI), meant only to be stored and viewed in specially designed government facilities. The search warrant authorized investigators to search “the 45 Office” and “all storage rooms and all other rooms or areas within the premises…in which boxes or documents could be stored,” excluding any areas Trump or his staff would not frequent, like guest rooms. When investigators visited Mar-a-Lago earlier this year to see the storage area where Trump was keeping documents, they advised him to buy a better padlock and subpoenaed surveillance footage of the facility.
Breitbart News, in its own report related to the search documents, stipulated that “Attachment B to the warrant delineates the three statutes which agents are pursuing evidence under. They are: 18 U.S.C. § § 793, 2071, and 1519.” Notably, 18 US Code § 793 is the statute of the Espionage Act under which National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner was charged for sharing a single document, of public importance, with news outlet The Intercept. Winner was ultimately sentenced to five years in federal prison, before gaining early release last year. Winner had appealed to Trump for clemency, unsuccessfully, during his presidency.
Politico noted that while Republicans have spent the week defending Trump, the newest revelations are causing splintering among the ranks. While many in the party’s leadership are still forthrightly behind the former president and likely 2024 nominee, some are troubled by the potential national security implications of highly sensitive information being stored at a resort, which even during Trump’s presidency was infiltrated by trespassers.