The FBI recovered more than 11,000 government documents and photographs during its Aug. 8 search at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
The agency also recovered 48 empty folders labeled as “classified,” according to court records that were unsealed on Friday.
The unsealing by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon in West Palm Beach came one day after she heard oral arguments by Trump’s attorneys and the Justice Department’s top two counterintelligence prosecutors over whether she should appoint a special master to conduct a privilege review of the seized materials at Trump’s request.
Cannon deferred ruling immediately on whether to appoint a special master but said she would agree to unseal two records filed by the Justice Department.
Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who was appointed by Trump, questioned the usefulness of such an appointment.
“I think at this stage, since they’ve (FBI) already gone through the documents I think it’s a waste of time” to have a special master, Barr said in an interview on Fox News.
Barr, who left the post in late December 2020, defied Trump by not backing his false claims that the presidential election that year had been stolen from him.
In the interview, Barr added that he saw no “legitimate reason” for Trump having documents at his Florida estate if they were classified.
He added, “I frankly am skeptical of this claim (by Trump) that ‘I declassified everything.’ Because frankly I think it’s highly improbable and second, if he sort of stood over scores of boxes not really knowing what was in them and said ‘I hereby declassify everything in here,’ that would be such an abuse, show such recklessness that it’s almost worse than taking the documents.”
One of the records, released on Friday, provides a little more detail about the 33 boxes and other items the FBI found inside Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, as part of its ongoing criminal investigation into whether he illegally retained national defense information and tried to obstruct the probe.
It shows that documents with classification markings were at times co-mingled with other items such as books, magazines and newspaper clippings.
Also found were unspecified gifts and clothing items.
Of the more than 11,000 government records and photos, 18 were labeled as “top secret,” 54 were labeled “secret” and 31 were labeled “confidential,” according to a Reuters tally of the government’s inventory.
“Top secret” is the highest classification level, reserved for the country’s most closely held secrets.
There were also 90 empty folders, 48 of which were marked “classified,” while others indicated that they should be returned to staff secretary/military aide.
It is not clear why the folders were empty, or whether any records could be missing.
The other record that was unsealed is a three-page filing by the Justice Department updating the court about the status of its investigative team’s review of the documents seized.
That filing, dated Aug. 30, said investigators had completed a preliminary review of the materials seized and will investigate further and interview more witnesses.
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