Former President Donald Trump has offered a shifting array of defenses in response to the August 8 FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, which uncovered a trove of secret documents.
Among them is the claim that he declassified all of the documents while in office under the president’s sweeping powers over national secrets.
But procedural documents unsealed Thursday by federal judge Bruce Reinhart, including the cover sheet of the warrant used in the search, revealed that this defense may not be as effective as Trump hoped, legal experts say.
One implication of the new information is that even if Trump is right about the documents being declassified, he still could have broken the law, Lawrence Tribe, a Harvard constitutional law scholar, tweeted.
Prior to Thursday, the only information about the law’s agents believed Trump may have broken came from the warrant itself, which was unsealed last Friday.
It listed broad federal statutes Trump may have violated, including the Espionage Act. More specific information was found in Thursday’s documents.
They showed that the FBI believes that Trump may be guilty of the willful retention of national defense information, concealment or removal of government records, and obstruction of a federal investigation.
Bradley P. Moss, a national security attorney, told Insider that the new documents “clarify but ultimately do not change much” of what we previously knew.
A striking detail, he said, is that the FBI believes Trump has obstructed its probe.
“Clearly, the FBI currently believes Mr. Trump not only took properly marked classified documents to Mar-a-Lago, but he kept them and resisted turning them over when confronted by the government,” Moss said.