Some of the seized documents describe top-secret US operations that many senior national security officials have been kept in the dark about. The President, certain members of his Cabinet or A A near-cabinet-level official could authorize other government officials to learn about the details of these special access programs, the people familiar with the search said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe critical details of the ongoing investigation.
Documents on such highly classified activities require special clearances on a need-to-know basis, not just a top-secret clearance. Some special-access programs may have as many as two dozen government employees authorized to know the existence of an activity. Records dealing with such programs are kept under lock and key, almost always in a secure vaulted information facility, with a designated control officer carefully monitoring their location.
But more than 18 months after Trump left the White House, such documents were stored in uncertain security at Mar-a-Lago.
After months of effort, the FBI has recovered more than 300 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago this year, according to government court filings: 184 in a 15-box package sent to the National Archives and Records Administration in January, and 38 more turned over. Turned over to investigators by Trump’s attorney in June, more than 100 additional documents were discovered. A court-authorized search on August 8.
Only in the last batch of government secrets was the information about a foreign government’s nuclear defense preparedness found, people familiar with the matter said. The people did not identify the foreign government in question, say where the document was obtained at Mar-a-Lago, or provide more details about the Justice Department’s highly sensitive national security investigations.
A Trump spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment. Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is conducting a risk assessment to determine the potential harm caused by removing hundreds of classified documents from government custody.
The Washington Post FBI agents who raided Trump’s home had previously said they were looking, in part, to any classified documents related to nuclear weapons. After the story was published, Trump compared it to previous government investigations into his behavior on social media. “The nuclear issue is a hoax, Russia, Russia, Russia is a hoax, two impeachments are a hoax, the Mueller investigation is a hoax, and more. The same scumbags are involved,” he wrote, suggesting FBI agents may have planted evidence against him.
A grand jury subpoena issued May 11 sought “all documents or writings in the custody or control of Donald J. Trump and/or the office of Donald J. Trump, including those bearing classification markings of “Top Secret,” and less. “Confidential.” and “Confidential” sections.
A subpoena issued to Trump’s custodian of records later listed two dozen subclassifications of documents, including “S/FRD,” an acronym for “Formerly Restricted Data,” which is reserved for information primarily related to military use. Nuclear weapons. Although “former” is in the title, this term does not mean that the information is unclassified.
A person familiar with the Mar-a-Lago search said the goal of the extensive inventory was to ensure the recovery of all classified records on the property, and that investigators had no reason to believe there might be any.
When they began reviewing documents obtained from the club’s storage closet, Trump’s home and his office in August, investigators became concerned, according to a person familiar with the search. The committee soon found records so restricted that even some senior national security officials in the Biden administration were not authorized to review them. A government filing cited this information while indicating that counterintelligence FBI agents and prosecutors investigating the Mar-a-Lago documents were not initially authorized to review some of the seized material.
Among the more than 100 classified documents seized in August, some were marked “HCS,” a category of highly classified government information that stands for “HUMINT Control Systems,” systems used to protect intelligence gathered from covert human sources. filed in court. Documents found in boxes sent to the National Archives in January to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are partially unsealed affidavits. There was substance It was never shared with foreign countries.
A federal judge in Florida on Monday ruled that an investigation into the mishandling of classified information, as well as the concealment, tampering or destruction of government records, grew more complicated. He accepted Trump’s request to appoint a special master Review materials seized in the Aug. 8 search and weed out documents that might fall under executive privilege — a legal standard used for former presidents that is poorly defined.
U.S. District Court Judge Eileen M. Cannon ruled that the special master will examine nearly 13,000 documents and materials seized by the FBI to identify anything that might be protected by the attorney-client privilege. Justice Department lawyers have said the “filter” team has already completed that task.
Cannon’s ruling could slow and complicate the government’s criminal investigation, especially if the Justice Department decides to appeal unresolved and tricky questions about what executive privileges the former president may have. The judge ruled that investigators could not “use” the seized material in their investigation until the special master completed his examination.
The Special Master has not yet been appointed; Cannon asked Trump and the Justice Department to agree on a list of eligible nominees by Friday. Legal experts noted that the Justice Department could still interview witnesses, use other evidence and present information to a grand jury while the special master examines seized items.
“The appointment of a special master is necessary to ensure at least the appearance of honesty and fairness in the extraordinary circumstances presented,” Cannon said in his order.
He also argued that a special master could mitigate potential harm to Trump by “improperly disclosing sensitive information to the public” and that knowledge or details of the case would harm the former president and could be mitigated by inserting a special one. Master the document review process.
“As a function of the plaintiff’s former position as President of the United States, the stigma associated with material possession is in a league of its own,” Cannon wrote. “Future impeachment will cause reputational harm of a decidedly different degree, based on any amount on the property to be repossessed.”
The FBI search has drawn sharp condemnation from Trump and his Republican allies, who have accused the Justice Department of acting with a political grudge against the former president, who could run for re-election in 2024, and some Republicans have said the move may have been necessary.
In an interview that aired Friday, the former Trump attorney general William B. Barr said there were no secret documents for any reason Trump must have been at Mar-a-Lago after leaving office.
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