He is suspected of having “transported and stored classified documents” in a way “inappropriate”. Former US President Donald Trump is in the crosshairs of justice for keeping official documents – described as “top secret” by FBI agents — at his home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. Without needing to contradict the facts, Donald Trump criticized these investigations, before starting a legal response. Franceinfo summarizes the key moments of this ongoing investigation for almost six months.
In February, a first report
In a document made public on Friday, August 26 (in English), the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has laid out the main reasons for the investigation against Donald Trump. We know that it started after a report, dated February 9, from the national archive agency (Nara), which is responsible for recording the activities of the president for history. In question: the delivery on January 18, two days before the end of his presidential mandate, of fifteen boxes of documents directly from his home in Florida. In these filing cabinets, documents classified as sensitive, “mixed with other archives”assured the DOJ.
The alert is considered serious enough to trigger a “criminal investigation” from the FBI, which confirmed that these later returned boxes contained 184 classified documents, 25 of which were marked “top secret”. Investigators then set out to determine, among other things, “How these documents marked with an official seal were removed from the White House”.
In June, an attempt to recover the documents failed
Nara and the American Department of Justice, similarly, tried everything to get their hands on the presidential archives, which had been requested for a long time. On June 3, a senior officer specializing in counterintelligence even visited the Mar-a-Lago residence, accompanied by Donald Trump’s lawyers. He was then given a simple “hold on” of documents, as reported by New York Times (in English). At the end of June, the exploitation of video surveillance images of the residence however brought to light the movement of the boxes and the transfer of the archives between the boxes, which were made in the weeks before this visit. What prompted the investigators to suspect that “Other documents containing top secret national defense information” still of the former president.
In August, a search under tension
On the morning of August 8, the FBI raided the famous residence of Donald Trump, who reacted quickly. “Our country is living in dark days. My beautiful home in Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, (…) was besieged and invaded and occupied by many FBI agents”, said the former president, who was not present during the operation. A message that had the effect of gathering many supporters of Donald Trump in front of the wanted villa.
During the operation, officers searched 58 bedrooms and 33 bathrooms, according to the search warrant. After several hours of searching the basement and bedroom of Donald Trump, FBI agents gathered 26 boxes of archives – including about 100 classified documents and a set of items classified as ” top secret”. In order not to interfere with the investigations, the Ministry of Justice remains evasive about the contents of the documents found in the luxurious villa of Donald Trump. Handwritten notes, photo binders, but also “information” on “the President of France”Emmanuel Macron, can be seen especially in the inventory made by the FBI, the content of which is widely censored.
Trump hits back and calls it a ‘witch hunt’
The former US president has been repeatedly criticized the investigation was directed at him. In Truth Social, the network he himself created after his ouster from Twitter, Donald Trump lamented a “witch hunt”and a “com subterfuge”and added that these legal documents do not mention “none” potential documents related to “nuclear”which is in the American press first mentioned. “We live in a country without faith or law”he was angry before.
Confronted with the findings of the investigators, the billionaire did not deny that he kept these documents, but assured that all “declassified” and that the search is disproportionate. FBI investigators “they could have taken it whenever they wanted without playing politics and sneaking into Mar-a-Lago”, did he declare in a statement posted on its site on August 12 – and has since been removed. However, the former president is suspected of many crimes withholding national defense information, withholding official records, and obstructing federal investigations.
The investigation has already sparked a legal battle
The political effect of this search, the first in the house of a former American president, is that the Minister of Justice, Merrick Garland, must give an extraordinary press conference and make sure that he has “personally approved” the operation.
While the FBI’s investigations are still ongoing, Donald Trump intends to weigh all his weight in this case that could damage his political future. Two weeks after the search of his residence, the former president officially requested the appointment of an independent expert to oversee the processing of the documents found in his home, while seeking a halt to the federal investigation. This request has so far been unsuccessful, as it was considered vague by the judge presiding over this case.
The rest of this case depends on the investigation of course, but also on the content of sensitive documents found in the billionaire’s residence. As the BBC remembers (in English)the document dealing with the details of the search was published only after legal action by the American media and the whole pages are always crossed with a black line. No charges have yet been brought against Donald Trump, who, however, is the target of other investigations regarding the manipulation of the results of the 2020 presidential election as well as his role in the invasion of the Capitol by his supporters in January 6, 2021.