The FBI recovered a trove of classified and top-secret material during its search of Donald Trump’s Florida residence, highlighting the seriousness of the probe facing the former US president.
According to The Wall Street Journal, which published an account of the list of items seized from the Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday, the FBI retrieved about 20 boxes of material including information about the “president of France”.
The FBI and Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment on the findings by US law enforcement. The media reports came after the DoJ called for the public release of the search warrant used by the FBI to enter Mar-a-Lago, after it was under seal for four days, as well as the inventory of items that were recovered.
Trump also backed the release of the documents, which were given to his lawyers on the day of the search, which he is yet to produce. A federal judge had given Trump until 3pm Eastern time on Friday to decide whether to support or oppose the publication of the search warrant and inventory list.
The revelation that Trump was holding highly classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate — including at least one that applied to a foreign leader — will bolster the DoJ and FBI’s claims to have acted appropriately in their decision to search his home.
The Washington Post reported late on Thursday that some of the documents were related to nuclear weapons, though the FBI, DoJ and National Security Council declined to comment on that report.
In a series of posts on Truth Social on Friday, Trump mocked the search and any suggestion of wrongdoing as politically motivated persecution. “Nuclear weapons issue is a hoax, just like Russia, Russia, Russia was a hoax,” he wrote, referring to the probe led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election while he was in office.
Trump also continued to blast the FBI — “Same sleazy people involved” — and said US law enforcement could have obtained the documents at Mar-a-Lago at any time. “ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS ASK,” he said.
However, US prosecutors had been in talks for weeks with Trump and his team about the importance of producing the documents — to the point that they issued a subpoena for them earlier this year.
Even with the release of the search warrant and inventory list, the motivation behind the search at Mar-a-Lago will not be fully known until an affidavit in support of the warrant is made public, or any charges are brought by the federal prosecutors.
The DoJ had declined to comment on the investigation into Trump for three days after the search, sticking to its policy of not commenting on pending cases. But on Thursday attorney-general Merrick Garland made a short statement following criticism that he had offered no explanation of the move.
Garland did not offer any new details of the probe, but said he had personally approved the search and would not take such a step “lightly”. He also fiercely defended the work of the FBI and DoJ after they became the focus of vitriolic criticism from Trump and his allies on America’s hard right.