WASHINGTON (AP) — Along with top-secret government documents, the FBI agents who searched former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate have found dozens of empty folders marked as classified but with nothing in them and with no explanation of what could be there, according to a more detailed inventory of the seized material that was made public on Friday.
The agents also found more than 10,000 other government documents held by Trump without any classification marked.
The inventory prepared by the Justice Department reveals in broad terms the contents of 33 boxes and containers recovered from Trump’s office and a storage facility in Mar-a-Lago during the Aug. 8 search.. While the inventory does not describe the contents of the documents, it shows the extent to which classified information — including top-secret-level material — was put away in boxes at home and mixed with newspapers, magazines, clothing and other personal items.
And the empty folders beg the question of whether the administration recovered all of the classified papers Trump kept after leaving the White House.
The inventory makes clear for the first time how many unclassified government documents were in the house, even though presidential documents were allegedly turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration. The archives had tried unsuccessfully for months to secure their return from Trump, then contacted the FBI after finding classified information in a batch of 15 boxes it received in January.
The Justice Department has said there was no safe space for sensitive government secrets in Mar-a-Lago and has opened a criminal investigation aimed at preserving them and alleged attempts over the past few months to obstruct the investigation. It also investigates possible violations of a law criminalizing the mutilation or concealment of government documents, classified or unclassified.
Trump lawyers did not immediately return an email on Friday requesting comment. Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich claimed the FBI search was a “SMASH AND GRAB” — even though the Justice Department had received court-authorized permission to search specific locations in the house.
The inventory was released as the Justice Department conducts its criminal investigation as intelligence agencies assess any risk to national security caused by misuse of classified information and when a judge is considering whether to appoint a special captain — essentially an outside legal expert — to review the files.
The inventory had previously been filed under seal, but the Justice Department had said it had no objection to disclosure given the “extraordinary circumstances”. Trump himself has previously called for disclosure of documents related to the search. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon said on Thursday that she planned to disclose the inventory and that she did so on Friday.
All told, the inventory shows, in August the FBI seized more than 100 documents with classification marks, including 18 marked top secret, 54 classified and 31 confidential. The FBI had identified 184 documents marked as classified in 15 boxes recovered by the archives in January and received additional classified documents in a single Redweld envelope during a visit to Mar-a-Lago in June.
The Justice Department has said it searched the property in August after it developed evidence that documents were likely “hidden and removed” from the storage room as part of an effort to hinder the investigation.
The court files have failed to explain why Trump kept the classified documents and why he and his representatives failed to return them upon request.
Inventory shows that 48 empty folders with classified banners were removed from the storage room or office, along with additional empty folders marked “Return to Staff Secretary” or military assistant.
It is not clear from the inventory list what could have happened to the documents that apparently were in it.
Separately Friday, the Department of Justice said in a court filing that it had reviewed data seized during the recent search and separated it from those with classified markings to ensure it was being stored under proper protocol and procedure. .
“The seized materials will be used to continue the government’s investigation, and the investigative team will continue to use and evaluate the seized materials as it takes further investigative steps, such as through additional witness hearings and the practice of the grand jury.” jury,” the department said. .
It added that “additional evidence regarding the seized items,” including how they were stored, “will inform the government’s investigation.”
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