Updated Aug 12, 2022 - Politics & Policy

WSJ: FBI seized "top-secret" materials in Mar-a-Lago search

Former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida
Former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Photo: Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The FBI agents who searched Mar-a-Lago on Monday removed 11 sets of classified information from the Trump property, including some marked as "top secret," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The inventory — which was reviewed by the WSJ along with the warrant from the search — confirms the FBI removed classified documents that were only meant to be kept in secure government facilities.

  • The revelations undercut Trump and his allies’ claims that the search warrant was baseless.
  • The full contents of the documents are still unknown.
  • The Justice Department is currently seeking to unseal the warrant and inventory.
  • The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the FBI sought some classified documents relating to nuclear weapons in their search. Trump denied on Truth Social the reports of possessing any materials related to nuclear weapons.
  • Trump’s legal team has not confirmed the report and Axios has not independently verified the contents of the warrant.

Driving the news: The FBI found four sets of "top secret documents", three sets of "secret documents", and three sets of "confidential documents" — all of which the Justice Department argues are federal property, the WSJ found.

  • The FBI seized roughly 20 boxes of materials in total, including binders, handwritten notes, the executive grant of clemency for Roger Stone, and information about the "President of France."
  • One set of documents was labeled “Various classified/TS/SCI documents,” referring to top-secret and sensitive compartmented information.

Trump’s lawyers argue the president used his authority to declassify the documents before he left office.

  • As the WSJ notes, a president has the power to declassify documents, but there are federal regulations that dictate that process.

The backdrop: Republicans immediately went into an uproar following the news of Monday's FBI search and demanded to see the Justice Department's warrant while claiming — without evidence — that Trump is victim to a corrupt and rogue Biden Justice department.

  • On Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced he "personally approved the decision" to seek the warrant.
  • Garland noted the decision to do so was unusual and not taken "lightly," but he felt it necessary following the repeated calls from government officials to do so, as well as in response to the attacks on the FBI and the DOJ's credibility.
  • Trump's legal team also had the ability to publicly release the warrant but chose not to do so.
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