After public pressure, investigation documents have now been made public. They show the reasons for the raid. / Document released on Donald Trump raid
The FBI’s search of an ex-president’s home is considered unprecedented — as is the release of an investigative document amid the ongoing investigation. In the case of Donald Trump, many things are obviously different than usual, because a former US President does not usually keep top-secret government documents in his private villa after his term in office. The raid on the Mar-a-Lago property made headlines around the world. Trump sees this as an attempt to torpedo his renewed application for the presidential election.
The Justice Department in Washington has now made public the document on the basis of which the search of the private residence Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach was made public. However, about half of the more than 30 pages have been blacked out to protect sensitive information.
Information about the initial suspicion
The document also provides information about the FBI’s initial suspicions against Trump. Accordingly, 14 of 15 boxes of papers that the 76-year-old had sent to the National Archives from Mar-a-Lago earlier this year contained confidential and sometimes top-secret documents. 184 documents were classified as such: 67 as confidential, 92 as secret and 25 as top secret. There were handwritten notes on some – probably by Trump himself. The FBI complained that secret documents had been found together with other papers.
Investigations revealed that classified documents, which appeared to include national defense-related information, were being held at an unauthorized location at Trump’s home, it said. The FBI argued there was reason to believe other classified documents were there.
Publication by court order
“There is also reason to believe that evidence of disability will be found at the site.” It was initially unclear whether this meant obstructing the investigations or the usual government processes for documents. A judge in Florida had ordered the partial publication of the paper – in view of the great public interest. Several media had requested disclosure in court.
The federal police FBI searched Mar-a-Lago on August 8th. The background is the Republican’s handling of documents from his tenure as President. Because Trump kept the records at his private estate, he may have broken the law. This is now being investigated.
Trump speaks again of “witch hunt”
Trump reacted with outrage to the publication of details of the investigation against him. In the online service Truth Social, which he co-founded, Trump again wrote about a “witch hunt” against him. He accused the US federal police FBI and the Department of Justice of a “total PR deception”. In his view, the responsible judge should never have allowed the “breaking into his house”.
Shortly after the search, he had criticized the actions of the authorities as politically motivated. Those involved are only concerned with preventing him from running again for the presidency, according to Trump. He is now defending himself with a lawsuit.
But numerous Republicans had also sided with Trump and sharply criticized the raid. They accused the FBI of abuse of power and that the Justice Department had gone too far. At the same time they demanded clarification. The publication of the investigation documents will probably not change that much. Republican Congressman Dan Bishop wrote on Twitter: “So much for transparency” and showed a photo of two almost completely blacked out pages.
Was the retention lawful or not?
As unusual as the deployment is, the publication of essential procedural documents is also unusual – even if, as now, large parts have been blacked out. In particular, the justification for the search warrant that has now been published is not normally something that leaks out during ongoing investigations. In view of the great pressure, Attorney General Merrick Garland had previously initiated the publication of the search warrant and proof of the confiscated items.
Accordingly, the agents actually found what they were looking for at Trump: Among other things, they confiscated a set of documents classified as “Top Secret/SCI”, which are top secret and may only be viewed in special government institutions. Four sets of documents were classified as “Top Secret”, three more as “Secret” and the remaining three as “Confidential”.
Trump rejects the allegations: He claims that the documents have been released and that the secrecy has been lifted. But it’s not that easy. Incumbent presidents do have far-reaching powers to release information and lift secrecy. However, there is a formal procedure for this, and further approvals are sometimes required. In addition, it does not necessarily matter whether the documents were declassified, as the unauthorized storage of documents related to national defense can also be a criminal offence. This is also made clear in the document that has now been published – in a footnote.
Trump filed a “supplementary” motion in court after the release. In it, he asks the court to prevent the government from examining the documents seized in Mar-a-Lago until a third party, a so-called Special Master, can be appointed. This is to independently monitor the examination of the documents. Trump had already made a similar request on Monday. Trump’s attorneys said their motion should be granted because the published statement was over-redacted. It contains “almost no information that would allow (Trump) to understand why the raid took place or what was taken from his home.”
When asked by a reporter about his own handling of classified documents, US President Joe Biden said: “I have a separate room at my house that is completely secure. I’ll take today’s PDB (“President’s Daily Brief”). Daily report for the President) to take home. It’s locked, one person is with me, the military, and I read it. Then I lock it again and give it back.”