West News Wire: According to court documents made public when a federal judge unsealed the warrant authorizing the historic search this week, the FBI found documents marked “top secret” at the Florida residence of former President Donald Trump.

A property receipt revealed by the court on Friday reveals that during a search of the estate on Monday, FBI agents removed 11 sets of sensitive documents. Federal agents create the property receipt to detail what was taken during a search.

According to the search warrant, the FBI raided Donald Trump’s home in part due to allegations of breaking the US Espionage Act by improperly retaining secret defense documents.

The seized records include some that were marked as classified and some top secret. The court records did not provide specific details about the documents or what information they might contain.

“Top secret” is the highest level of classification of US government documents. US law prohibits making public or mishandling classified documents.

On Friday, Trump claimed that the documents seized by agents at his Florida club were “all declassified”, and argued that he would have turned over the documents to the Department of Justice if asked.

“Number one, it was all declassified. Number two, they didn’t need to ‘seize’ anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.

While incumbent presidents have the power to declassify information, that authority lapses as soon as they leave office and it was not clear if the documents in question have ever been declassified.

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.

US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the same judge who signed off on the search warrant that sparked Monday’s FBI search, unsealed the warrant and property receipt on Friday at the request of the Department of Justice. He did so after Attorney General Merrick Garland declared Thursday there was “substantial public interest in this matter”, and Trump backed the warrant’s “immediate” release.

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Trump’s lawyers had been given copies of the warrant and the property receipts on Monday and could have made them public at any time.

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

In messages posted Truth Social, Trump wrote, “Not only will I not oppose the release of documents. I am going a step further by encouraging the immediate release of those documents.”

The Department of Justice’s request is striking because such documents traditionally remain sealed during a pending investigation. But the department appeared to recognise that its silence since the search had created a vacuum for bitter verbal attacks by Trump and his allies, and that the public was entitled to the FBI’s side about what prompted Monday’s action at the former president’s home.

“The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” said a motion filed in federal court in Florida on Thursday.

The search at Trump’s home sparked fury among his supporters, with some Republican legislators promising to investigate the Department of Justice, including Garland, if they win power in the upcoming midterm elections.

Trump has portrayed the search as a Democratic-led political attack to prevent him from running for president in 2024. The White House of President Joe Biden has repeatedly said it did not have prior knowledge of the search and it does not interfere in Department of Justice investigations.

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