By Masood Farivar
Among the more than 100 classified documents seized last month during an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort was a document giving a secret account of a foreign nation’s nuclear capabilities, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The revelation underscores the sensitive nature of the classified government documents seized by the FBI as part of its investigation into Trump’s handling of records from his presidency after he left the White House in January 2021.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment when asked to confirm or deny the Post story.
During the August 8 search, FBI agents seized 13 boxes and containers with more than 100 classified government documents, some of them labeled top secret, according to court documents.
In addition, Trump’s team had handed over 184 classified documents to investigators in January, and 38 more in June in response to a subpoena.
Some of the documents seized during the August search of Mar-a-Lago “detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about” them, the Post reported, citing people familiar with the search, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The document that describes the foreign nation’s nuclear capabilities was found in the records seized in August, the Post reported, adding that the people it interviewed did not identify the foreign country in question.
The August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago came after the government had repeatedly asked Trump to turn over records from his presidency. He handed over some but not all, according to the Justice Department.
During the August search, the FBI seized about 13,000 documents and other items, according to a court filing.
Trump has claimed that he had a standing order to declassify all documents taken from the Oval Office to the White House residence. But his lawyers have not made that claim, suggesting they believe the documents were classified.
According to an August 30 court filing by the Justice Department, some of the classified documents seized last month included “additional sensitive compartments that signify very limited distribution.”
The intelligence community defines “Sensitive Compartmented Information,” or SCI, as a category of “classified information concerning or derived from intelligence sources, methods or analytical processes that is required to be protected within formal access control systems established by the DNI,” referring to the director of national intelligence.
In some instances, the seized documents were so sensitive that “even the FBI counterintelligence personnel and DOJ attorneys conducting the review required additional clearances before they were permitted to review certain documents,” according to DOJ court filings.
The investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents followed more than a year of efforts by the National Archives to take possession of government documents Trump had taken to his Florida resort after leaving the White House.
In January 2022, Trump turned over 15 boxes of materials, which included 184 classified documents. In June, in response to a grand jury subpoena, Trump surrendered an additional 38 classified documents, among other items.
Then on August 8, the FBI, having learned that Trump hadn’t turned over everything, executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, seizing more than 100 additional classified documents.
The FBI is investigating whether Trump’s retention of the documents constitutes a violation of part of the Espionage Act that makes it a crime to gather, transmit or lose national defense information.
In response to Trump’s request, a federal judge in Florida on Monday ordered the appointment of a special master to determine whether any of the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago are privileged and should not be used by prosecutors.