by Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – FBI agents who raided Donald Trump’s Florida home this week seized classified documents, including some classified, that the former U.S. president illegally took with him when he left the White House, the Justice Department announced Friday.
The Justice Department told federal judge Bruce Reinhart, who signed the search warrant, that it has good reason to believe Donald Trump was guilty of violating the Espionage Act, a federal law passed in 1917 which prohibits the possession or transmission of information likely to harm US military operations or benefit enemies of the United States.
The warrant, the seals of which were unsealed on Friday at the request of a federal judge, indicates that the FBI agents took away about twenty boxes containing documents, some of them classified, photo albums as well as the handwritten letter by which Donald Trump granted his presidential pardon to his former partner Roger Stone.
Documents seized by the FBI from the Florida residence of Mar-a-Lago also include information on “the President of France”, Emmanuel Macron, the court document states.
Contacted by Reuters, the Elysee Palace did not wish to comment on this “information” which would have been in the possession of Donald Trump.
The former US president did not object to the contents of the search warrant being made public. On the other hand, he denied on Friday that federal agents had been looking for documents related to the United States’ nuclear weapons, as reported by the Washington Post on Thursday.
“This story of nuclear weapons is a hoax,” he reacted on Truth Social, the social network he created. Donald Trump considered that this information was to be put on the same level as the controversies concerning his links with Moscow and the two impeachment proceedings initiated against him.
The search was part of an investigation into documents that Donald Trump allegedly illegally took with him out of the White House when his term ended in January 2021. Never the home of an ex- tenant of the White House had not previously been searched.
Merrick Garland, appointed by Joe Biden, the Democratic successor to Donald Trump, said Thursday during a press conference that he personally approved the search.
“The department does not take such a decision lightly,” he said, adding that less intrusive means were usually preferred when possible.
This confirmation is very unusual, while law enforcement officials generally do not mention ongoing investigations, in particular to protect people’s rights.
Unusually, also, it was Donald Trump himself who announced Monday night that his residence was being searched by FBI agents, accusing Joe Biden of engaging in political revenge.
(Report Sarah N. Lynch and Karen Freifeld, with Andy Sullivan, David Morgan, Mike Scarcella, Kanishka Singh, Eric Beech, Steve Holland and Dan Whitcomb; French version Nicolas Delame and Tangi Salaün)