What did the FBI look for - and find - when searching Trump's Mar-a-Lago home? What we know




  • In Politics
  • 2022-08-12 20:56:00Z
  • By USA TODAY

In the days following the search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago property by federal agents, key questions remained unanswered. Chief among them: What were federal agents looking for - and what did they find?

The warrant that authorized the search of Trump's Florida home, made public Friday afternoon, provides some answers about what was sought, including highly classified material.

Here's what we know about what federal agents found searching Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence.

Live updates: DOJ search warrant shows Trump being probed in connection with espionage statutes

The documents: Read the FBI's search warrant for Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago property

How it began: Trump Mar-a-Lago home in Florida searched by FBI in probe into handling of classified documents

Secret Service agents stand at the gate of Mar-a-Lago after the FBI issued warrants Aug.
Secret Service agents stand at the gate of Mar-a-Lago after the FBI issued warrants Aug.  

What is the investigation about?

Sources familiar with the search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago home told USA TODAY the investigation is related to the former president's removal of classified documents from the White House when he left office.

How long has the investigation involving Mar-a-Lago documents been going on?

Two months before the search, Trump was served a subpoena seeking sensitive government documents that investigators believed he had stored at his Florida property after his presidential term ended.

The June action shows a months-long attempt to secure the documents, before Attorney General Merrick Garland disclosed Thursday that he personally greenlighted the decision to seek a warrant to search Trump's home after determining there was the required "probable cause" that a crime had been committed.

Earlier this year, the National Archives obtained 15 boxes of presidential records at Mar-a-Lago.

Search warrant: The Mar-a-Lago search warrant has become a hot topic for speculation. Here's what we really know

What was the FBI looking for at Mar-a-Lago?

The warrant instructed federal agents to search any physical documents with classification markings, or the boxes and containers in which those documents were located and any boxes or containers stored with them.

It said to search for information, including any form of communication, about the retrieval, storage or transmission of defense information or classified material.

The warrant told agents to look for government or presidential records created between when the former president took and left office (Jan. 20, 2017-Jan. 20, 2021).

And it directed them to look for evidence of the "knowing alteration, destruction or concealment" of any government, presidential or classified documents.

Where were they looking?

The areas that the Justice Department directed federal agents to search in Mar-a-Lago  included "45 Office" and all storage rooms or rooms that could be used as storage across the entire estate, according to an attachment to the released warrant. The warrant did not include directives to search private guest suites.

The search warrant revealed that the Justice Department is investigating Trump in connection with statutes related to the Espionage Act, record mismanagement and obstruction.

The first of those statutes, 18 U.S.C. 793, falls under the Espionage Act and refers to gathering, transmitting or losing defense information.

The second, 18 U.S.C. 2071, pertains to the concealment, removal or destruction of federal documents. Violators of this law are disqualified from holding any public office in the United States.

And the third, 18 U.S.C. 1519, refers to the destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations and bankruptcy, which holds a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

What did they find?

FBI agents who searched Trump's home retrieved boxes that included 11 sets of classified documents, according to a property receipt released with the warrant.

Some of the documents were marked as top secret, while others offered vague descriptors like binders of photos, a handwritten note, information about the "President of France" and the executive grant of clemency for Trump ally Roger Stone. Some 20 boxes of items were taken by the FBI.

The list includes references to one set of documents deemed "Various classified/TS/SCI documents," which is an abbreviation for "top secret/sensitive compartmented information." Agents also collected four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents and three sets of confidential documents, according to the property receipt.

Timeline: Trump records investigation: From early red flags to the search at Mar-a-Lago

When did the investigation start?

Government watchdog groups sounded the alarm in 2018 on Trump's management of records, but the Department of Justice didn't officially begin investigating Trump until April, when the National Archives and Records Administration confirmed Trump removed classified documents from White House.

What does Trump say about it?

Trump has denounced the investigation as a "witch hunt" in all levels of government, including the bureau itself. However, FBI Director Christopher Wray was appointed by Trump while he was president.

He has also said that his people were cooperating with the government over document production.

"My attorneys and representatives were cooperating fully, and very good relationships had been established," Trump said in a post on Truth Social. "The government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it."

Contributing: David Jackson, Kevin Johnson, Josh Meyer

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mar-a-Lago search: What did the FBI look for and find?

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