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Newly unsealed doc details what the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago

We now have a clearer and more detailed sense of what the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago. The transparency isn't doing Donald Trump any favors.


In the controversy surrounding the classified materials at Mar-a-Lago, much of the legal focus this week has been on whether a federal judge will appoint a special master to review the evidence. The debate has generated some provocative and informative court filings, though we haven’t yet learned of U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision.

But yesterday, there was a related matter that came to the fore: a list of what the FBI took when it executed a court-approved search warrant nearly a month ago. As NBC News reported, that rundown was unsealed this morning:

In addition to troves of information marked “secret” and “top secret,” the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida [property] turned up over 10,000 U.S. government documents and photographs without classification markings, a newly unsealed Justice Department inventory of the seized items shows.

If this sounds at all familiar, it’s not your imagination. Four days after the search, the original search warrant was unsealed, and as part of that release, the public saw “receipt for property” materials, listing what was seized.

It was at that point that we learned about the retrieval of materials marked as “TS/SCI documents,” which refers to “top secret/sensitive compartmented information” — a designation reserved for highly sensitive materials that are vital to U.S. national security.

Those descriptions, however, were broad and vague. Today’s disclosure adds more specific details — not about the precise text in the classified documents, of course, but about their classification.

With this in mind, FBI agents apparently found quite a bit. According to the tally, the materials recovered from Mar-a-Lago included:

  • 54 documents labeled “SECRET."
  • 18 documents labeled “TOP SECRET," including seven documents from Trump’s office.
  • 31 documents labeled “CONFIDENTIAL."
  • 48 empty folders with “Classified Banners.”
  • 42 empty “Return to Staff Secretary/Military Aide” folders.
  • More than 11,000 government-owned document and photos without classified markings.

(Scroll down to the bottom of this post to read the complete inventory.)

The word that jumps out, of course, is “empty.” It suggests there were folders that contained classified documents, which were no longer in those folders.

Just to go ahead and state what’s painfully obvious, it would be good to know what happened to the contents of those folders.

For now, we don’t know. It’s possible the explanation is benign: Perhaps Team Trump had already returned the materials in those folders. It’s also possible the explanation is more unsettling. I guess we can’t rule out the possibility that the documents were eaten or flushed.

Either way, watch this space.