Friday, September 2, 2022

Court Releases Detailed FBI Inventory of Items Seized at Trump's Mar-a-Lago

Boxes containing top secret and other classified documents at Mar-a-Lago also contained newspaper and magazine clippings, clothing, and gifts, according to a more detailed list of items seized by FBI agents during their search of former President Donald Trump's home last month. The list was made public on Friday. 

According to prosecutors, agents removed around 33 boxes holding more than 100 classified papers. According to the inventory, seven of the boxes or containers were housed in Mr. Trump's office and the remainder in a storage room at the private club. 

Prosecutors had previously released a briefer list indicating that agents had recovered sets of classified documents and other items, such as the executive grant of clemency for Mr. Trump's ally Roger Stone and information about the president of France, but the new inventory specifies the number and type of items found in each box. 

The receipt indicates that in one of the boxes discovered in Mr. Trump's office were 99 newspaper and magazine clippings from 2017 and 2018, along with seven documents marked as top secret, fifteen documents marked as secret, 43 empty folders marked as classified, and 28 empty folders labeled "Return to Staff Secretary/Military Aide." 

According to the list, five more empty files with classified banners were discovered in the storage area. It was not possible to ascertain if the files initially stored in folders designated as classified were located elsewhere during the search or were otherwise accounted for. 

Thursday, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon ordered the comprehensive inventory to be released after Mr. Trump's legal team requested it and the Justice Department indicated it would be made public. 

During Mr. Trump's dramatic withdrawal from the White House, the papers he carried with him to his Florida club seem to have been organized in a disorganized manner, as seen by the inventory. In a Thursday hearing before Judge Cannon, a lawyer for Mr. Trump compared the disagreement over the material to one involving overdue library books. 

The list also highlights what Justice Department officials have characterized as their fears that extremely sensitive material, including some collected from covert human-intelligence sources, was mixed with other things and kept insecurely. None of the topics of the classified or other papers are described in the list. 

According to the list, one box retrieved from the storage area had 68 news articles dated between 2015 and 2017, along with a piece of clothing or present, a book, and two unclassified U.S. government papers or images. Another had 30 news clippings, 21 classified papers, and 11 private documents, according to the list. 

According to the inventory, some of the boxes investigators collected also included reams of classified government information. One had 357 such papers or photographs, along with two tagged as classified and twenty-four media clips from 2020, according to the document. It said that two further boxes included 1,036 non-classified government documents. 

Prosecutors have said that they are examining possible breaches of both the Espionage Act, which regulates classified material, and a presidential records legislation mandating the transfer of White House documents to the National Archives. 

Taylor Budowich, a spokesperson for Mr. Trump, tweeted, "The new 'detailed' inventory list further reveals that this unprecedented and unwarranted raid of President Trump's residence was not a surgical, restricted search and retrieval, as the Biden administration claimed; rather, it was a SMASH AND GRAB." 

Mr. Trump and his staff have said that the material was transferred to Mar-a-Lago at the conclusion of his administration, after a frenetic packing session. In the latter months of his administration, up until he left office on January 20, 2021, Mr. Trump was focused with reversing his electoral defeat in November 2020. 

Here is a summary of what the FBI discovered during their investigation of Mar-a-Lago on August 8. 

Government records that are not classified - 11,179 items 

Books/clothing/gifts - 52 

press clippings - 1,673

Classified papers - 103 

Most of the ninety empty folders are labeled 'classified.' 

Mr. Trump's former attorney general, William Barr, who left office in December 2020, said, "These items were stored and handled in a haphazard manner." "Once you're conducting an investigation and executing a search warrant, you have the right to collect not just government records but other items from the same containers where you discovered the papers that would demonstrate the context in which they were housed." 

David Priess, a former CIA officer who briefed high-level officials on intelligence matters, said that it is regular practice for presidential aides to carry classified papers in different folders to conceal their contents while moving about the White House. Mr. Priess, author of a book on presidential intelligence briefings, stated that the empty folders discovered during the search do not necessarily indicate that additional classified documents are missing, adding that it is likely that the other seized documents were originally stored in those folders by Mr. Trump and his aides. 

The former president claims he declassified the documents before leaving office, although there is no evidence to support this claim. In a letter dated May 25, one of his attorneys, Evan Corcoran, said that a president's "constitutionally-based power over the classification and declassification of records is unrestricted." He did not state that Mr. Trump utilized this authority with relation to any Mar-a-Lago papers. 

Moreover, according to Mr. Trump's office, there was a standing order to declassify materials he carried into the White House residence in the evening. However, a number of administration officials say they have never heard of such an order. 

In court filings, prosecutors described a year-and-a-half-long effort to retrieve the documents through less intrusive means, including negotiations and subpoenas, before conducting their extraordinary search. 

The Justice Department said that it had discovered evidence of obstruction and that attempts had been made to conceal papers and remove them from a storage room as investigators sought their return. Agents who conducted a search of the premises on August 8 discovered things outside of the storage area where, according to the Justice Department, Mr. Trump's attorneys had informed them they were all housed. The attorneys for Mr. Trump have contested the government's characterization without offering specifics. 

Prosecutors said in a second document dated August 30, but also unsealed on Friday, that investigators had examined all confiscated papers apart from those possibly protected by attorney-client privilege. The documents will be utilized as investigators "take additional investigative steps, including additional witness interviews and grand jury practice," according to the filing. 

"All information relevant to the confiscated objects, including the type and manner in which they were maintained, as well as any evidence referring to specific papers or items of interest, will influence the government's inquiry," it said. 

Judge Cannon ordered the two papers to be released on Thursday at a hearing to decide whether to appoint an independent party to analyze the seized records in order to assess if executive and attorney-client privilege renders some of them inaccessible to investigators. 

She has not yet ruled on whether she will appoint a special master, but she previously indicated she was prepared to do so after Mr. Trump's attorneys argued that the federal government's handling of the investigation had undermined public confidence in the investigation's integrity and transparency. According to them, the appointment of a special master to analyze papers will assist place the case's difficulties in their correct perspective. 

The Justice Department, whose own staff has already placed away potentially privileged material, has rejected the nomination, citing worries about prolonging the probe into Mar-a-handling Lago's of highly classified data. 

During Thursday's hearing, Jay Bratt, the case's lead attorney for the Department of Justice, said that Mr. Trump was not entitled to the appointment of a special master since the classified and presidential papers seized did not belong to him but to the United States.