First photos released of top secret documents seized by FBI from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate

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The first images of documents seized from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate by FBI agents earlier this month have been released as the Justice Department says that it has evidence that government records were likely moved to obstruct its investigation.

In images released as part of a Justice Department court filing late Wednesday evening, markers bearing the reading “secret” and “top secret” are clearly visible, removing all doubt as to whether Mr Trump had classified documents at the unsecured resort and residence where he currently lives.

And in one document marked “secret”, the heading indicates that the contents refer to human source intelligence. There’s no reason such documents would be legally kept in a private residence without the consent and cooperation of the National Archives and likely other agencies, and there’s no indication that Mr Trump had such permission.

The photo’s release came as part of a late-night filing by attorneys with the Justice Department in the Florida court where Donald Trump has sued to require the appointment of a special master to review the documents taken by FBI agents and determine whether any are protected by executive privilege.

In their filing accompanying the photo, the Department of Justice also revealed for the first time that Mr Trump or his associates are likely under investigation for obstruction of justice as well.

A photo released as part of a filing by the Justice Department of documents seized from Mar-a-Lago (Department of Justice)
A photo released as part of a filing by the Justice Department of documents seized from Mar-a-Lago (Department of Justice)

“The government also developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” reads the filing.

It also reminds Mr Trump and his defenders in Washington and the media that the seized documents “belong to the United States, not to the former President”, and also derided the president’s assertion of executive privilege as legally baseless.

“As such, the former President cannot claim that he is personally injured by a review of those records by personnel within the Executive Branch,” the filing read. In addition, they wrote that even if the review of materials caused the president injury, the injury would already be complete.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that a former President may not successfully assert executive privilege ‘against the very Executive Branch in whose name the privilege is invoked,’” wrote the attorneys, citing case law.

“[E]ven if the former President had actually asserted executive privilege with regard to any of the seized documents (which he has not), and even if he had statutory authority to do so (which is not established), such an assertion would fail here because this case involves the recovery and review of executive records by executive officials performing core executive functions,” their filing continues.

Attorneys for the DoJ also faulted Mr Trump for not following the very Presidential Records Act which he insisted he was following in a Truth Social post made just hours earlier. According to the Justice Department, Mr Trump’s challenges to Joe Biden’s refusal to assert executive privilege over documents related to the case should have been filed in the District of Columbia.

The filing clearly indicates that the president and his allies at Mar-a-Lago may be in serious legal jeopardy as a result of their latest legal drama; separately, the president and some members of his inner circle including Rudy Giuliani are thought to be the target of an investigation in Fulton County, Georgia, into efforts to push local officials to overturn the election while at the same time a grand jury probe headed up by the DoJ regarding January 6 continues to operate in Washington, DC.

One member of Mr Trump’s legal counsel is even accused of potentially lying to investigators about how many classified documents were even present in the building.

“That the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many docs with classification markings as the ‘diligent search’ that the former President’s counsel and other reps had weeks to perform calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification,” wrote the DoJ.

The filing also debunked Mr Trump’s claims that were outside of the scope of the Justice Department’s search warrant. Mr Trump had previously said the FBI stole his three passports. Rather, the filing says that the government seized the contents of a desk drawer with classified documents and government records that were mixed with other ones.

“The other documents included two official passports, one of which was expired, and one personal passport, which was expired,” the filing said. “The location of the passports is relevant evidence in an investigation of unauthorized retention and mishandling of national defense information; nonetheless, the government decided to return those passports in its discretion.”

Should the court rule in favour of Mr Trump, which appears unlikely, the DoJ asked that a number of restrictions be placed on the review process for the documents, including a time limit.

The former president and his allies have spun a wide web of conspiracies, baseless accusations and nonsense defences in response to the politically-embarrassing raid of his home by FBI agents; among the claims levied by Trump supporters in the past few weeks include the assertion that Mr Trump had issued a standing order declassifying all documents he took to Mar-a-Lago upon exiting the White House, as well as the sinister accusation that FBI agents were being directed by the DoJ to plant incriminating evidence in the seized files.

Mr Trump’s defenders have yet to explain the presence of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago without the consent of the National Archives, or their storage in unsecured areas, or even the rank hypocrasy of being criminally investigated for such an act after his brutal campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2016 which centred significantly around an investigation into her own handling of documents at the State Department that ended without charges being filed.