Donald Trump investigated under Espionage Act as FBI seize ‘top secret’ documents from home

Correspondent Ian Woods reports on the warrant that allowed the FBI to search the home of a former president of the United States

The FBI found several documents labelled “top secret” from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, according to court papers, as the former president is investigated under the Espionage Act.

A federal judge agreed to make a warrant used to search Mr Trump's home on Monday public, with a property receipt revealing FBI agents took 11 sets of classified records from his house.

The seized records include some that were marked classified as top secret and also “sensitive compartmented information,” a special category meant to protect the nation's most important secrets and those that, if revealed, would harm US interests.

The warrant details that federal agents were investigating potential violations of three different federal laws, including one that governs gathering, transmitting or losing defence information under the Espionage Act.

The other statutes address the concealment, mutilation or removal of records and the destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations.

In a statement on Friday, Mr Trump claimed that the documents seized by agents were “all declassified” and argued that he would have turned them over to the Justice Department if asked.

The notice filed by the Justice Department informing the judge that lawyers for Donald Trump do not object to unsealing the search warrant. Credit: AP

Mr Trump also kept possession of the documents despite multiple requests from agencies, including the National Archives, to turn over presidential records in accordance with federal law.

Earlier on Friday, he had called for the release of the search warrant obtained by the FBI to search his home.

It came after the United States' top lawyer asked a court to unseal the search warrant - which would make its contents public - and a federal judge is considering the request.

The Justice Department told the judge on Friday that Mr Trump’s lawyers did not object to the proposal to make it public.

In a post on his Truth Social platform, Mr Trump said “Not only will I not oppose the release of documents ... I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents.”

He continued to assail the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago as “unAmerican, unwarranted and unnecessary”, before adding: “Release the documents now!”

Police outside Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. Credit: AP

Attorney General Merrick Garland cited the “substantial public interest in this matter” in announcing the request at a hastily-scheduled Justice Department news conference.

Such documents usually remain sealed during a pending investigation, but the Justice Department appeared to recognise its silence since the search had created a vacuum for bitter attacks from the former president and his allies.

To that end, the attorney general condemned verbal attacks on FBI and Justice Department personnel over the search.

“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” he said, calling them “dedicated, patriotic public servants.”

He also cited the fact that Mr Trump himself had provided the first public confirmation of the FBI search, and the attorney general said that disclosing information about it now would not harm the court's functions.

Mr Garland also said he personally approved the search warrant, which was part of an ongoing investigation into the discovery of classified White House records recovered from Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago home earlier this year.

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During his successful 2016 campaign, Mr Trump pointed frequently to an FBI investigation into his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, over whether she mishandled classified information.

The department specifically requested the unsealing of the warrant as well as a property receipt listing the items that were seized, along with two unspecified attachments.

The Mar-a-Lago search on Monday was part of an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the discovery of classified White House records recovered from Trump's home in Palm Beach, Florida, earlier this year.

The National Archives had asked the department to investigate after saying 15 boxes of records it retrieved from the estate included classified records. Multiple federal laws govern the handling of classified information.