© Reuters FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home after Trump said he was wanted by FBI agents in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., August 15, 2022. REUTERS/Marco Bello/File photo
By Sarah Ann Lynch and Jason Lang
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The FBI’s Aug. 8 search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home found more than 11,000 government documents and photographs, as well as 48 empty files marked “classified,” court records revealed on Friday. .
U.S. District Judge Eileen Cannon’s press conference in West Palm Beach came a day after she heard oral arguments from Trump’s lawyers and two of the Justice Department’s top counterintelligence prosecutors over whether she should appoint a special counsel over materials seized from Trump’s home. Question
Cannon delayed an immediate ruling on whether to appoint a special master, but said she would agree to open two Justice Department records.
Former US Attorney General William Barr, appointed by Trump, has questioned the merits of such an appointment.
“I think at this point, I think it’s a waste of time because they (FBI) have already passed on the documents” to have a special master, Barr said in an interview on Fox News.
In the year Barr, who stepped down in late December 2020, criticized Trump for not supporting false claims that that year’s presidential election was stolen from him.
In the interview, Barr added that he saw no “legal reason” for Trump to have documents classified in his home state of Florida.
He added: “I’m skeptical of this (Trump) ‘I explained everything’ statement.” Because I think it’s very impossible, and secondly, if he stands over several boxes without knowing what’s in them and says, ‘I’ll explain everything in this,’ that would be such an abuse, it shows carelessness, which is almost worse than taking the documents.”
One of the records, https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.flsd.618763/gov.uscourts.flsd.618763.39.1_1.pdf, released on Friday, provides about 33 boxes and a little more detail. Other items the FBI found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate are part of an ongoing criminal investigation into alleged illegal retention of national defense information and attempted obstruction of justice.
It shows that documents with classification marks were sometimes combined with items such as books, magazines, and newspaper clippings.
Unspecified gifts and clothing were also found.
Of the more than 11,000 government records and photographs, 18 are classified as “top secret,” 54 as “confidential” and 31 as “confidential,” according to a Reuters government census report.
“Top Secret” is the highest level of classification, reserved for the nation’s most closely held secrets.
In addition, there were 90 empty files, 48 of which were marked “classified” and others indicated to be returned to the staff secretary / military assistant.
It is not clear why the archives were empty or that any records may be missing.
Another file, https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.flsd.618763/gov.uscourts.flsd.618763.39.0_2.pdf , is an unsealed three-page Justice Department file updating the court. Status of investigation team’s review of seized documents.
That filing, dated Aug. 30, said investigators have completed a preliminary review of the seized materials and will conduct further investigation and interview additional witnesses.
If Cannon agrees to appoint a special master and conduct an independent third-party review of seized records, the Justice Department’s criminal investigation could be put on hold.
However, Cannon signaled at Thursday’s hearing that she might allow U.S. intelligence officials to continue reviewing the materials as part of their national security risk assessment, even if a special master is appointed.
The Justice Department previously said in court filings that it had evidence that classified documents were intentionally withheld from the FBI when it tried to get them out of Trump’s home in June.
The Justice Department opposes the special master’s appointment, saying the records in question are not Trump’s and cannot say they are covered by executive privilege, a legal doctrine that can be used to protect some presidential communications.