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Justice Department justifies crackdown on Donald Trump

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117 Secret and Top-Secret Documents: How Trump’s Garden Search Came to Be

Court documents released Friday offer insight into the history that led to the FBI raid of former President Donald Trump’s home in early August.

Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.

Steve Helper/AP

A federal judge in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Friday released a previously classified document that provides insight into the criminal investigation into the impeachment of President Donald Trump. The 32-page document explains why investigators concluded last month that Trump was stashing government documents and memorabilia at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.

However, the document, which was released following a lengthy back-and-forth between the Justice Department and federal judge Bruce Reinhardt, has been heavily censored. The Department of Justice, the FBI’s top agency, blacked out entire pages. The ministry justified the move in a memorandum with, among other things, the protection of “public witnesses” who could be exposed to reprisals.

The judge approved the audit. A document justifying a search for the historical uniqueness of a former president’s primary residence doesn’t make much sense — especially given the evidence the Justice Department currently has. However, individual passages provide insight into the history of the investigation against Trump.

Trump calls the investigation against him a politically motivated witch hunt. He alleges (among other things) that the Justice Department is using the law regarding the archiving of presidential documents and memorabilia to harass and steal from him.

The former president has yet to provide any concrete evidence for these claims. And his lawyers are fighting to stop their client’s trial through legal channels. So this week, before another federal judge in South Florida, they requested the appointment of an independent arbitrator. This person should have the authority to inspect all materials secured by the FBI and return Trump’s personal belongings to the former president.

Trump believes he owns the documents

The judge, who is beholden to the former president, seems to have resisted the request so far. Trump, on the other hand, thinks all the documents and items he sent from Washington to his home in Palm Beach during the last tumultuous days of his presidency are now his property.

Trump has repeatedly told confidants in front of confidants that he owns the remaining boxes of documents stashed in a bunker in a storage room at his property and is keeping them for a future presidential museum, US media reported.

For this reason, the former president broke off cooperation with the Justice Department and the Central Archives Authority NARA in the spring – after he agreed in January to return more than a dozen boxes of valuables.

According to court documents, the boxes allegedly contained 117 secret and confidential documents, a mix of newspaper articles and personal memos. Such documents, which could provide information about confidential sources of the secret services, really have no place in the private residence of the former president.

Surprised by the discovery, the Archives Commission launched legal proceedings against Trump in February at the Department of Justice – forcing Trump to return all documents and memorabilia to the public sector. The practice prompted a house search in Florida nearly six months later, after the Justice Department suspected (correctly) that the former president would not comply with a NARA request.

Republican allies argue that Trump — while he was in the White House — had the authority to declassify all classified documents, almost with the stroke of a pen. Experts deny this. Trump allies also point to a decade-old ruling by a federal judge in Washington that NARA does not have access to relevant presidential documents under current archives laws.

Ironically, conservative sources claimed that in 2012, the archival agency appropriated audio documents of former President Bill Clinton declaring his personal property.

So it’s completely open-ended how the investigation against Trump will proceed. The Judiciary, as usual, is silent on such proceedings.