The agents removed a total of 11 sets of documents including some marked “TS/SCI”. This is a designation given to material that could cause “exceptionally grave” damage to US national security.
Donald Trump immediately went on the defensive denying any wrongdoing and said the items were declassified. The raid marked the first time ever for an ex-president’s home to be searched in a criminal probe.
On Friday afternoon, a judge unsealed a seven-page document that included the warrant authorizing the search of Mr Trump’s Palm Beach residence, Mar-a-Lago. This made public the list of items that new were confiscated from the billionaire’s home.
According to the document, over 20 boxes of items were taken on Monday. These included a binder of photos, a handwritten note, unspecified information about the “President of France” and a clemency letter written on behalf of long-time Trump ally Roger Stone. As well as four sets of top secret files, the cache includes three sets of “secret documents” and three sets of “confidential” material.
As per the warrant, FBI Agents were looking into potential violations of the Espionage Act. This makes it illegal to keep or transmit potentially dangerous national security information.
While in office, President Trump increased the penalty for the removal of classified documents or materials. The crime is now punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
On Friday night, Mr Trump’s office issued a statement. They maintained that he had used his authority while president to declassify the documents.
“He had a standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office and taken into the residence were deemed to be declassified,” the statement said.
It is known that the power to classify and declassify documents rests solely with the President of the United States. However, there is no telling whether this argument will hold up in court.
“Presidents can declassify information but they have to follow a procedure,” Tom Dupree, a lawyer who previously worked in the justice department, told the BBC.
A spokesman for Mr Trump, Taylor Budowich, said the administration of President Joe Biden “is in obvious damage control after their botched raid”. Mr. Trump’s conservative allies have also condemned the raid. They said it is a political hit job as he considers another run for the presidency in 2024.
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