WASHINGTON: The FBI recovered “top secret” and even more sensitive documents from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, according to court papers released Friday after a federal judge unsealed the warrant that authorized the sudden, unprecedented search this week.
A property receipt unsealed by the court shows FBI agents took 11 sets of classified records from the estate during a search on Monday.
The seized records include some marked not only top secret but also “sensitive compartmented information,” a special category meant to protect the nation’s most important secrets that if revealed publicly could cause “exceptionally grave” damage to US interests. The court records did not provide specific details about information the documents might contain.
The warrant says federal agents were investigating potential violations of three different federal laws, including one that governs gathering, transmitting or losing defense information under the Espionage Act. The other statutes address the concealment, mutilation or removal of records and the destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.
The property receipt also shows federal agents collected other potential presidential records, including the order pardoning Trump ally Roger Stone, a “leatherbound box of documents,” and information about the “President of France.” A binder of photos, a handwritten note, “miscellaneous secret documents” and “miscellaneous confidential documents” were also seized in the search.
Trump’s attorney, Christina Bobb, who was present at Mar-a-Lago when the agents conducted the search, signed two property receipts — one that was two pages long and another that is a single page.
In a statement earlier Friday, Trump claimed that the documents seized by agents were “all declassified,” and argued that he would have turned them over if the Justice Department had asked.
While incumbent presidents generally 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. And even an incumbent’s powers to declassify may be limited regarding secrets dealing with nuclear weapons programs, covert operations and operatives, and some data shared with allies.
Trump kept possession of the documents despite multiple requests from agencies, including the National Archives, to turn over presidential records in accordance with federal law.
The Mar-a-Lago search warrant served Monday was part of an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the discovery of classified White House records recovered from Trump’s home earlier this year. The Archives had asked the department to investigate after saying 15 boxes of records it retrieved from the estate included classified records.
It remains unclear whether the Justice Department moved forward with the warrant simply as a means to retrieve the records or as part of a wider criminal investigation or attempt to prosecute the former president. Multiple federal laws govern the handling of classified information, with both criminal and civil penalties, as well as presidential records.
US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the same judge who signed off on the search warrant, unsealed the warrant and property receipt Friday at the request of the Justice Department after Attorney General Merrick Garland declared there was “substantial public interest in this matter,” and Trump said he backed the warrant’s “immediate” release. The Justice Department told the judge Friday afternoon that Trump’s lawyers did not object to the proposal to make it public.
In messages posted on his Truth Social platform, 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 Justice Department’s request was striking because such warrants traditionally remain sealed during a pending investigation. But the department appeared to recognize that its silence since the search had created a vacuum for bitter verbal attacks by Trump and his allies, and felt 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 information was released as Trump prepares for another run for the White House. During his 2016 campaign, he pointed frequently to an FBI investigation into his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, over whether she mishandled classified information.
To obtain a search warrant, federal authorities must prove to a judge that probable cause exists to believe that a crime was committed. Garland said he personally approved the warrant, a decision he said the department did not take lightly given that standard practice where possible is to select less intrusive tactics than a search of one’s home.
In this case, according to a person familiar with the matter, there was substantial engagement with Trump and his representatives prior to the search warrant, including a subpoena for records and a visit to Mar-a-Lago a couple of months ago by FBI and Justice Department officials to assess how the documents were stored. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
FBI and Justice Department policy cautions against discussing ongoing investigations, both to protect the integrity of the inquiries and to avoid unfairly maligning someone who is being scrutinized but winds up ultimately not being charged. That’s especially true in the case of search warrants, where supporting court papers are routinely kept secret as the investigation proceeds.
In this case, though, Garland cited the fact that Trump himself had provided the first public confirmation of the FBI search, “as is his right.” The Justice Department, in its new filing, also said that disclosing information about it now would not harm the court’s functions.
The Justice Department under Garland has been leery of public statements about politically charged investigations, or of confirming to what extent it might be investigating Trump as part of a broader probe into the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol and efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The department has tried to avoid being seen as injecting itself into presidential politics, as happened in 2016 when then-FBI Director James Comey made an unusual public statement announcing that the FBI would not be recommending criminal charges against Clinton regarding her handling of email — and when he spoke up again just over a week before the election to notify Congress that the probe was being effectively reopened because of the discovery of new emails.
The attorney general also condemned verbal attacks on FBI and Justice Department personnel over the search. Some Republican allies of Trump have called for the FBI to be defunded. Large numbers of Trump supporters have called for the warrant to be released hoping they it will show that Trump was unfairly targeted.
“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” Garland said of federal law enforcement agents, calling them “dedicated, patriotic public servants.”
Earlier Thursday, an armed man wearing body armor tried to breach a security screening area at an FBI field office in Ohio, then fled and was later killed after a standoff with law enforcement. A law enforcement official briefed on the matter identified the man as Ricky Shiffer and said he is believed to have been in Washington in the days leading up to the attack on the Capitol and may have been there on the day it took place.
BEIJING: China imposed sanctions on Tuesday on seven Taiwanese officials and lawmakers it accused of being “independence diehards,” including banning them from entering, in its latest angry reproach of the democratically governed island.
The sanctions come after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan this month, a trip that China said had sent a wrong signal to what it views as pro-independence forces.
China considers Taiwan its own territory and not a separate country. Taiwan’s government disputes China’s claim.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said among those sanctioned were Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, Secretary-General of Taiwan’s National Security Council Wellington Koo, and politicians from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
A Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson said that those sanctioned would not be able to visit China, Hong Kong and Macau. Firms and investors related to them will also not be allowed to profit in China.
“For some time, a few diehard separatist elements, out of their own interests, have gone to lengths to collude with external forces in provocations advocating Taiwan independence,” state news agency Xinhua cited the spokesperson as saying.
“They have deliberately instigated confrontations across the Taiwan Strait, and recklessly undermined peace and stability in the region.”
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in response that the island was a democracy that “could not be interfered with by China.”
“Even more, we cannot accept threats and menace from authoritarian and totalitarian systems,” ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou told reporters in Taipei.
The sanctions will have little practical impact as senior Taiwanese officials do not visit China.
The seven are in addition to Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and parliament Speaker You Si-kun who were previously sanctioned https://www.reuters.com/world/china/china-says-it-will-hold-supporters-taiwans-independence-criminally-responsible-2021-11-05 by China.
Taiwan’s government says only the island’s 23 million people have the right to decide their own future.
ISTANBUL/KYIV: The ship Brave Commander has left the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi, carrying the first cargo of humanitarian food aid bound for Africa from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, Refinitiv Eikon data showed on Tuesday.
Ukraine’s grain exports have slumped since the start of the war because of the closure of its Black Sea ports, a crucial conduit for shipments, which drove up global food prices and sparked fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East.
But three Black Sea ports were unblocked last month under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, that made it possible to send hundreds of thousands of tons of Ukrainian grain to buyers.
The Brave Commander, with 23,000 tons of wheat aboard, left for the African port of Djibouti with supplies destined for consumers in Ethiopia, Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said.
“The ministry and the United Nations are working on ways to increase food supplies for the socially vulnerable sections of the African population,” it said in a statement.
Seventeen ships have already left Ukrainian ports with more than 475,000 tons of agricultural products on board, it added.
Earlier, a joint co-ordination center set up by Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations, said it had approved the departure of the Brave Commander. Moscow calls its action in Ukraine a “special military operation.”
UNITED NATIONS: The UN special envoy for Myanmar traveled to the Southeast Asian nation Monday for the first time since she was appointed to the post last October.
The trip by Noeleen Heyzer followed the UN Security Council’s latest call for an immediate end to all forms of violence and unimpeded humanitarian access in the strife-torn country.
Heyzer “will focus on addressing the deteriorating situation and immediate concerns as well as other priority areas of her mandate,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
He gave no details on whether Heyzer would meet with Myanmar’s military rulers or the country’s imprisoned former leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, a longtime UN demand. Suu Kyi was convicted earlier Monday on more corruption charges, adding six years to her earlier 11-year prison sentence.
Heyzer’s visit “follows her extensive consultations with actors from across the political spectrum, civil society as well as communities affected by the ongoing conflict,” Dujarric said.
Earlier this month, Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, special envoy to Myanmar for the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said efforts by Myanmar’s neighbors to help restore peace and normalcy to the strife-torn nation were hindered by the country’s recent execution of four political activists.
He warned that further executions would force the regional group to reconsider how it engages with fellow member Myanmar.
In February 2021, Myanmar’s army ousted Suu Kyi’s elected government and then violently cracked down on widespread protests against its actions. After security forces unleashed lethal force on peaceful demonstrators, some opponents of military rule took up arms.
Myanmar’s military rulers agreed to a five-point ASEAN plan in April 2021 to restore peace and stability to the country, which includes an immediate halt to violence and a dialogue among all parties. But the country’s military has made little effort to implement the plan, and Myanmar has slipped into a situation that some UN experts have characterized as a civil war.
Heyzer, a women’s rights activist from Singapore, headed UNIFEM, a UN development organization that focuses on promoting women’s economic advancement, in 1994-2007. She was the first woman to serve as executive secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, in 2007-2014.
WASHINGTON: The US Justice Department on Monday said it opposes unsealing the affidavit that prosecutors used to obtain a federal judge’s approval to search former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, where they seized classified documents.
“If disclosed, the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course, in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps,” prosecutors wrote in their filing.
Trump’s Republican allies in recent days have ramped up their calls for Attorney General Merrick Garland to unseal the document, which would reveal the evidence that prosecutors showed to demonstrate they had probable cause to believe crimes were committed at Trump’s home — the standard they had to meet to secure the search warrant.
On Friday, at the Justice Department’s request, a federal court in south Florida unsealed the search warrant and several accompanying legal documents that showed that FBI agents carted away 11 sets of classified records from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
Some of the records seized were labeled as “top secret” — the highest level of classification reserved for the most closely held US national security information.
Such documents usually are typically kept in special government facilities because disclosure could damage national security
The Justice Department on Monday cited this as another reason to keep the affidavit sealed, saying the probe involves “highly classified materials.”
The agency said it would not oppose the release of other sealed documents tied to the raid, such as cover sheets and the government’s motion to seal.
The warrant released on Friday showed that the Justice Department is investigating violations of three laws, including a provision in the Espionage Act that prohibits the possession of national defense information and another statute that makes it a crime to knowingly destroy, conceal or falsify records with the intent to obstruct an investigation.
Trump has since claimed, without evidence, that he had a standing order to declassify all of the materials recovered at his home.
The decision by Garland to unseal the warrant was highly unusual, given the Justice Department’s policy not to comment on pending investigations.
On the same day Garland announced his decision to seek to unseal the warrant, an armed man with right-wing views tried to breach an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was later shot dead by police following a car chase.
Prosecutors on Monday cited the recent violence and increasing threats against the FBI as another reason not to release the affidavit.
“Information about witnesses is particularly sensitive given the high-profile nature of this matter and the risk that the revelation of witness identities would impact their willingness to cooperate with the investigation,” they wrote.
Also on Monday the Justice Department said a Pennsylvania man was arrested on charges of making threats on the social media service Gab against FBI agents. Adam Bies, 46, was taken into custody on Friday in connection with the social media posts, the DOJ said.
FBI seized top secret documents in Trump estate search; Espionage Act cited – Arab News