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FBI seizes ‘top secret’ documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home

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FBI agents who searched former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida’s Mar-a-Lago this week removed 11 sets of classified documents, including some marked top secret, the US Justice Department said Friday, while also disclosing that it has probable reasons to believe that it has violated the law. Espionage Act.

The bombshell disclosures were made in legal documents released four days after FBI agents searched Trump’s residence based on a warrant approved by a federal magistrate.

The Justice Department told U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart in its injunction request that it had likely grounds to believe Trump violated the Espionage Act, a federal law that prohibits the possession or transfer of national defense information.

The list of documents is contained in a seven-page document that also includes the search warrant issued to the FBI by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the paper said. The list did not provide details on the contents of the documents, it said.

The reported revelations that Trump had documents labeled “top secret” could pose a significant legal threat to him. “Top Secret” is the highest level of classification, reserved for the most meticulous national security information in the country. It is usually kept in special government facilities because disclosure can cause serious damage to national security.

Numerous federal laws prohibit mishandling classified material, including the Espionage Act and another statute that prohibits the unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or materials. Trump increased the sentences for this while in office, making it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

Earlier on Friday, Trump denied a Washington Post report that the FBI’s search of his Mar-a-Lago home was for potentially classified material related to nuclear weapons, writing on his social media account that the “nuclear weapons issue is a hoax.” .

Reuters could not immediately confirm the Washington Post report. Attorney General Merrick Garland has declined to disclose the nature of the investigation.

Monday’s search for Trump’s home marked a significant escalation in one of the many federal and state investigations he faces since his term in office and in private matters, including a separate one by the Justice Department into a failed bid by Trump’s allies to the 2020 undo. presidential elections by submitting false electoral rolls.

Garland announced Thursday that the department had asked Reinhart to unseal the warrant authorizing the FBI’s search for Mar-a-Lago. This followed a claim by Trump that the search was political retaliation and a suggestion by him, without evidence, that the FBI may have planted evidence against him.

Trump’s attorneys indicated Friday afternoon that they will not object to the search warrant for his Florida residence being unlocked to the public, the Justice Department said in a court filing, indicating the unsealing could take place soon.

Reinhart had imposed a 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) deadline on prosecutors to let him know whether Trump’s legal team will oppose the unsealing of the warrant.

‘Clear the documents’

Late on Thursday, Trump released a statement on social media saying he had no intention of opposing its release.

“Clear the documents now!” Trump wrote.

The investigation into Trump’s removal of records began this year after the National Archives and Records Administration, a body charged with protecting presidential records belonging to the public, made a reference to the department.

On Friday, Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee called on Garland and FBI Director Chris Wray to release the affidavit underlying the order, saying the public should know.

“Because they had many other options, we are very concerned about the method used in the Mar-a-Lago raid,” Representative Michael Turner, the committee’s top Republican, told reporters.

If the affidavit remains sealed, “it still leaves a lot of unanswered questions,” Turner added.

In February, United States archivist David Ferriero told House lawmakers that his agency had communicated with Trump during 2021 about the return of 15 boxes of records. He finally returned them in January 2022.

At the time, the National Archives was still doing an inventory, but noted that some boxes contained items “marked as classified national security information.” Trump previously confirmed that he had agreed to return certain data to the records, calling it “a common and routine process.” He also claimed that the archives “didn’t find anything.”

Since Monday’s search, the Justice Department has faced fierce criticism and online threats, which Garland has condemned. Trump supporters and some of his fellow Republicans in Washington have accused Democrats of arming the federal bureaucracy to attack him, even as he contemplates running for president again in 2024.

In another case, Trump declined to answer questions Wednesday during an appearance before the New York State Attorney General in a civil investigation into his family’s business practices, citing his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

(Reuters)

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