UPDATE, Friday morning: A more detailed inventory of items the FBI recovered in the search for Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was revealed on Friday.
The list – read it here – includes a summary of what was gathered at Trump’s office. That includes documents marked top secret, secret and confidential, but also 43 “empty folders with “classified” signs on them.
US District Judge Aileen Cannon ordered the document unsealed. She has yet to rule on Trump’s demand to appoint a “special master” to review the records, as the former president argues some of the elements fell under executive privilege and attorney-client privilege.
PREVIOUSLY, Wednesday: The Justice Department said the documents “were likely concealed and removed” from a Mar-a-Lago storage room in an alleged effort to obstruct an investigation into former President Donald Trump’s stash of classified material on his property.
Federal prosecutors made the claim in a court filing late Tuesday as they oppose efforts to appoint a special master to review materials recovered during a search of Trump’s estate on Aug. 8.
In the filing, the Justice Department said it “developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the storage room and that steps were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”
The DOJ filing outlines efforts over 18 months to obtain Trump’s presidential records, brought to Mar-a-Lago when he left office. Under the Presidential Records Act, those records are the property of the US government and are held by the National Archives.
After Trump’s team initially delivered 15 boxes of materials to the archives, the agency alerted the FBI when documents with classified markings were found to be mixed with other presidential materials. In May, the Trump team received a grand jury subpoena to turn over any additional material.
According to the latest Justice Department filing, what was turned over on June 3 was an envelope containing 38 documents with classification marks, including five marked confidential, 16 documents marked secret, and 17 documents marked top secret.
“In filing the documents, neither the attorney nor the custodian asserted that the former president had declassified the documents or asserted any executive privilege,” the Justice Department said in its filing. “Instead, the attorney handled them in a way that suggested the attorney believed the documents were classified: The production included a single Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in duct tape, containing the documents.”
The FBI then “uncovered multiple sources of evidence” that more documents still remained at Mar-a-Lago, even though an unidentified Trump representative had signed an affidavit that all the records had been turned over. The filing said that “the government developed evidence that a search limited to the storage room would not have uncovered all of the classified documents at” Mar-a-Lago.
The Mar-a-Lago search earlier this month recovered 11 sets of classified documents, along with other presidential materials. The Justice Department included in its filing a photo of some documents recovered from Trump’s office, as well as other items, including a framed cover of Time.
The Justice Department disputed Trump’s claims that some of the records are covered by executive privilege. He said the government “is also reviewing those highly sensitive records to determine whether their handling created national security risks.”
The Trump team is expected to respond to the DOJ filing later Wednesday. Trump wrote on his social media platform, Truth Social, that it was “terrible the way the FBI, during the Mar-a-Lago raid, randomly threw documents all over the floor (perhaps pretending I was the one! did!), and then I started taking pictures of them for the public to see. Did they think they wanted to keep it a secret? Lucky I declassified it!” Trump has claimed that he had a standing order that the documents moved from the White House to the Mar-a-Lago residence be considered declassified. But there is no record of such an order.