OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion
According to government sources, the FBI raided former president Donald Trump’s residency on Monday searching for intelligence ‘sources and methods’ documents.
Documents considered ‘compartmented’ are those containing intelligence sources, methods, or analytical techniques which require access control mechanisms set up by the Director of National Intelligence.
In such cases, a warrant or a receipt would not be able to reveal much information about what was taken, since they would be known only to a very small circle of people.
An FBI report released Friday states that 11 sets of classified documents were recovered from Mar-a-Lago on Monday.
An inventory of the search showed there were some documents marked ‘top secret’ that typically would be kept in specialized government facilities, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“Agents recovered 20 boxes in total from the Florida estate, according to the report, with the rest including handwritten notes, photo binders, the grant of clemency of Roger Stone and a file with ‘information on the President of France,’ The Daily Mail noted.
The warrant is believed to have given FBI agents permission to search in Trump’s office and all storage areas on the premises, and states four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents, and three sets of confidential documents were retrieved.
According to the attorneys for former President Trump, Trump declassified the documents just before leaving office. All presidents are authorized to declassify any document they wish. The process for doing so is governed by federal rules.
Trump on Friday said that all of the information he possessed had been declassified.
He started with a post about former President Obama and classified documents, stating:
“President Barack Hussein Obama kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified. How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!”
‘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. It was in secured storage, with an additional lock put on as per their request,’ he shared on Truth Social.
‘…They could have had it anytime they wanted-and that includes LONG ago. ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS ASK. The bigger problem is, what are they going to do with the 33 million pages of documents, many of which are classified, that President Obama took to Chicago?’ he continued.
Mike Davis, a former Chief Counsel for Nominations, U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and Law Clerk for Justice Gorsuch stated that any documents at Mar-a-Lago are in fact declassified.
“Before Attorney General Merrick Garland’s spin: The President of the United States has both the constitutional (and statutory) power to declassify anything he wants. If President Trump left the White House with classified records, they are declassified by his actions. Period.”
Before Attorney General Merrick Garland's spin:
The President of the United States has both the constitutional (and statutory) power to declassify anything he wants.
If President Trump left the White House with classified records, they are declassified by his actions.
— 🇺🇸 Mike Davis 🇺🇸 (@mrddmia) August 11, 2022
Davis continued, “As a matter of law, no President can be charged under the Espionage Act for “mishandling” classified records. When President Trump had the records sent to Mar-a-Lago, they were declassified. Former presidents don’t have this power. But Trump did this as the President.”
As a matter of law, no President can be charged under the Espionage Act for “mishandling” classified records.
When President Trump had the records sent to Mar-a-Lago, they were declassified.
Former presidents don’t have this power.
But Trump did this as the President.
— 🇺🇸 Mike Davis 🇺🇸 (@mrddmia) August 11, 2022
Even the leftwing “fact-checking” site Politifact agreed that presidents can declassify at will:
The president’s classification and declassification powers are broad.
The president, as commander in chief, is ultimately responsible for classification and declassification. When someone lower in the chain of command handles classification and declassification duties — which is usually how it’s done — it’s because they have been delegated to do so by the president directly, or by an appointee chosen by the president.
The majority ruling in the 1988 Supreme Court case Department of Navy v. Egan — which involved the legal recourse of a Navy employee who had been denied a security clearance — addresses this line of authority.
“The president, after all, is the ‘Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States’” according to Article II of the Constitution, the court’s majority wrote. “His authority to classify and control access to information bearing on national security … flows primarily from this constitutional investment of power in the president, and exists quite apart from any explicit congressional grant.”
Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, told PolitiFact in 2017 that such authority gives the president the authority to “classify and declassify at will.”
Robert F. Turner, associate director of the University of Virginia’s Center for National Security Law, told us in 2017 that “if Congress were to enact a statute seeking to limit the president’s authority to classify or declassify national security information, or to prohibit him from sharing certain kinds of information … it would raise serious separation of powers constitutional issues.”
The official documents governing classification and declassification stem from presidential executive orders. But even these executive orders aren’t necessarily binding on a president. The president is not “obliged to follow any procedures other than those that he himself has prescribed,” Aftergood said. “And he can change those.”
The situation recalls the “infamous comment” by President Richard Nixon that “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” But national-security specialists at the blog Lawfare wrote that this “is actually true about some things. Classified information is one of them. The nature of the system is that the president gets to disclose what he wants.”
If a president’s appointees disagree with those actions, the president “can overrule their decisions,” Turner said. “Within the executive branch, the president is the boss.”
“The former president took to Truth Social earlier to compare the latest allegations to ‘Russia, Russia, Russia’, impeachment and the Steele Dossier, and again suggested that law enforcement could have ‘planted’ evidence,” The Mail added.
The search and seizure warrant, according to WSJ, signed by Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, allowed for a search of ‘the 45 office’ and ;all storage rooms and all other rooms or areas within the premises used or available to be used by [the former president] and his staff and in which boxes or documents could be stored, including all structures or buildings on the estate.’
Aug. 5 was the date when the warrant was signed, and Aug. 8 was the day when the raid took place.
“The warrant is expected to be released later today, but the government does not yet have plans to release the affidavit to the warrant, which could reveal much more information,” The Mail explained.
Trump and his team say they do not have a copy of the affidavit and his lawyers have asked for a more detailed account of what was taken from Mar-a-Lago.
All storage rooms and all other rooms or areas within the premises used or available to be used by [the former president] and his staff and in which boxes or documents could be stored, including all structures or buildings on the estate.’
Just hours before, Trump criticized agents for preventing his attorneys from watching the search, he said he supported a Florida judge releasing the search warrant enabling the search.
There is still time for his lawyers to object to the release by Friday afternoon, but it seems unlikely they will.
‘Nuclear weapons issue is a Hoax, just like Russia, Russia, Russia was a Hoax, two Impeachments were a Hoax, the Mueller investigation was a Hoax, and much more,’ Trump posted on Truth Social Friday.
He went on: ‘Same sleazy people involved. Why wouldn’t the FBI allow the inspection of areas at Mar-a-Lago with our lawyer’s, or others, present. Made them wait outside in the heat, wouldn’t let them get even close – said ‘ABSOLUTELY NOT.’ Planting information anyone? Reminds me of a Christofer (sic) Steele Dossier!
It’s obvious that if the documents the FBI seized were declassified by Trump as he and his lawyers state they were, this was political intimidation designed to persecute Trump and perhaps and attempt to keep him off the ballot in 2024.
Trump reacted to the raid after it happened.
He stated that “In early June, the DOJ and FBI asked my legal representatives to put an extra lock on the door leading to the place where boxes were stored in Mar-a-Lago – We agreed.”
They were shown the secured area, and the boxes themselves. Then on Monday, without notification or warning, an army of agents broke into Mar-a-Lago, went to the same storage area, and ripped open the lock that they had asked to be installed. A surprise attack, POLITICS, and all the while our Country is going to HELL!
Trump said in a post to his Truth Social page early Wednesday morning, “The FBI and others from the Federal Government would not let anyone, including my lawyers, be anywhere near the areas that were rummaged and otherwise looked at during the raid on Mar-a-Lago. Everyone was asked to leave the premises, they wanted to be left alone, without any witnesses to see what they were doing, taking or, hopefully not, “planting.””
Trump asked: ‘Why did they STRONGLY insist on having nobody watching them, everybody out? Obama and Clinton were never ‘raided,’ despite big disputes!’
The former president quoted a New York Post article in two posts about the Obama administration’s handling of White House documents.
“Obama White House lawvers repeatedly invoked the Presidential Records Act to “delay the release of thousands of pages of records from President Bill Clinton’s White House.“”
Trump continued with the quotes:
“At the end of his presidency, Barack Obama trucked 30 million pages of his administration’s records to Chicago, promising to digitize them and eventually put them online – a move that outraged historians. More than five years after Obama’s presidency ended, the National Archives webpage reveals that zero pages have been digitized and disclosed.“