On August 8, 2022, the F.B.I. searched former President Donald J. Trump’s Mar-A-Lago private club and residence. The search stemmed from efforts by the National Archives and Records Administration to recover classified government documents which remained in Trump’s possession and on his private property.
The New York Times reported on August 9, 2022, that the National Archives had received a collection of documents from the White House “at the end of the administration.” However, Trump removed dozens of boxes of non-classified, classified, and “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information” from the left the White House —the latter of which can only be read by the President and a small group of other intelligence/military officials “in a secure government facility.”
President Trump Conceals Government Documents
The National Archives soon determined the former President left the White House with numerous records and documents he no longer had legitimate authority to possess. The government agency immediately initiated official efforts, through reasonable negotiations and legal demands, to have the unauthorized documents returned to the lawful custody of the agency.
These efforts resulted in Trump, his attorneys, and a host of aides—none of whom had the legal authority or security clearance to read, much less possess such documents—surrendering 15 boxes of documents to the National Archives in January 2022.
The agency reported in February 2022 that the boxes contained “classified national security information”—information the former President did not have the authority or any legitimate reason to possess.
On February 10, 2022, the National Archives referred Trump’s handling, taking, and possessing sensitive national security documents to the U.S. Justice Department (D.O.J.) to regain possession of documents and determine if any criminal violations had occurred.
DOJ Investigates Removal of Government Documents
The D.O.J. launched an investigation into how and why classified material ended up in Trump’s “private club” in Palm Beach, Florida. In April, the agency instructed the National Archives not to share any further information or documents with the public or any congressional committees looking into the documents issue pending its investigation.
The following month, a grand jury empaneled to investigate the matter issued a subpoena to the National Archives for the classified documents in the boxes surrendered by the “Trump team” in January.
In June, the F.B.I. informed Trump’s attorneys that the agency was conducting a “criminal investigation” into the classified documents issue.
In response to meetings and discussions with the F.B.I. concerning this investigation, the Trump Team surrendered roughly a dozen more boxes of documents stored in an unsecured basement in Trump’s living area.
Trumps Lawyers Relay False Statements to FBI
In the wake of this forced second surrender of documents, at least one of Trump’s attorneys signed a “sworn statement” for the F.B.I. that the former President did not have any more “classified documents,” reported the New York Times.
Following the June meeting between the F.B.I. and the Trump team, the F.B.I. received information from a human source that there were still government documents at the former President’s residence, and some were highly classified.
This information prompted the F.B.I. to seek and secure a search warrant for the designated areas of Trump’s residence at his private club. The warrant was issued based on probable cause that evidence of a crime was located at the residence in violation of these three federal statutes under Title 28 of the United States Code:
- Section 793: The Espionage Act. Enacted in 1917 after the U.S. joined World War I designed to protect the nation from a litany of “disloyal” behaviors. It carries a penalty of up to 10 years.
- Section 1519: The destruction or concealing of records “with the intent to impede, obstruct or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter …” It carries a penalty of up to 20 years.
- Section 2071: The theft and/or destruction of government documents. It carries a penalty of up to 3 years.
The search of Trump’s private club/residence resulted in the seizure of some of the nation’s most sensitive national security documents. According to CNN, they include:
- 1 set of “top secret/S.C.I.” documents
- Four sets of “top secret” documents
- Three sets of “secret” documents
- Three sets of “confidential” documents
Classified, top secret and S.C.I. documents are stored in highly secured government databases that can be removed and shared with others only by individuals with the highest levels of security clearance and only through rigorously established disclosure protocols.
Altogether, F.B.I. agents on August 8 removed roughly a dozen boxes of documents, which Trump and his legal team had sworn did not exist, from the former President’s sprawling 17-acre estate.
Questions now abound about the loyalty of the former President to the United States of America—questions that existed during the four-year Trump presidency because of his penchant for disclosing classified information to foreign governments, including Russia.
Questions remain as to who facilitated the removal, against both federal law and government protocols, of these classified, top secret, and S.C.I. documents from their secured locations and transported to the former President’s private club/residence. And why?
Why did the former President and his legal team try for more than 18 months to conceal the presence of the government documents at Mar-A-Lago?
What possible national security reason could a former president have to possess such highly sensitive documents after his removal from office?
The answers to these questions are critical. The very security of the nation could very well depend upon what they reveal.
For example, one Fox News host Eric Shawn recently floated the possibility that Trump may have tried to sell (or perhaps has already sold) classified, top secret, and S.C.I. documents to foreign powers.
Given the former President’s continuous assault on the nation’s democratic institutions during his four years in office and his cozy personal relationships and admiration for dictators and autocrats, it is reasonable and prudent to raise this horrible possibility.
At the very least, it warrants continued D.O.J. investigation to determine what, if any, damage the former President has done to the security of the United States.
The fact that this treasonous possibility can be raised about the former President, especially by his longtime supportive media outlet Fox News, and that so many members of the Republican Party have chosen to defend the indefensible actions of Trump in this matter speaks volumes about how close this nation is to losing its democracy.
There is no defense for stealing, concealing, and possibly selling some of the nation’s most sensitive security information to foreign governments.
Republicans linking a legitimate criminal investigation to the maniacal and murderous regime of Nazi Germany is not only dangerous but represents political collusion with criminal, possible treasonous conduct.
Far right-wing nuts like Rick Scott and Lauren Boebert of the Republican Party want to foster a “civil war” climate in this country. Their brand of the Republican Party thrives on racist and supremacist dog whistles and rhetoric.
Like it or not, regardless of political persuasion or party affiliation, we are all confronted with a dangerous and significant test of our democracy.