The search, documents show, was an evidence-gathering step in a national security investigation about presidential records at Mar-a-Lago. Trump owns the sprawling estate, and it is his primary residence as well as a members-only club and resort.
The FBI recovered 11 sets of classified documents from its search, including some materials marked as “top secret/SCI” – one of the highest levels of classification, according to documents from the search warrant that were released Friday.
It identifies three federal crimes that the Justice Department is looking at as part of its investigation:
- violations of the Espionage Act
- obstruction of justice
- criminal handling of government records.
The inclusion of the crimes indicates the Justice Department has probable cause to investigate those offenses as it was gathering evidence in the search. No one has been charged with a crime at this time.
Here are some key lines from the search warrant and receipt.
‘Receipt’ of removed items
One of the newly unsealed documents is a search warrant “receipt” listing the items that the FBI collected from Mar-a-Lago.
That document reveals FBI agents removed more than 20 boxes from Trump’s resort and residence in Palm Beach, as well as binders of photos, sets of classified government materials and at least one handwritten note.
According to the search warrant receipt, federal agents seized:
- 1 set of “top secret/SCI” documents
- 4 sets of “top secret” documents
- 3 sets of “secret” documents
- 3 sets of “confidential” documents.
The warrant receipt didn’t detail what such classified documents were about.
Among the items taken:
- A document about pardoning Roger Stone, a staunch Trump ally who was convicted in 2019 of lying to Congress during its probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The Stone-related material taken from Mar-a-Lago was listed in the warrant receipt as “Executive Grant of Clemency re: Roger Jason Stone, Jr.”
- Material about the “President of France.”
Trump pardoned Stone before leaving office, shielding him from a three-year prison term. It’s unclear how the Stone-related document seized during the search is tied to the broader criminal probe into Trump’s potential mishandling of classified materials.
Areas authorized for search
The judge authorized the FBI to search what the bureau called the “45 Office,” as well as “all other rooms or areas” at Mar-a-Lago that were available to Trump and his staff for storing boxes and documents.
“The locations to be searched include the ’45 Office,’ all storage rooms, and all other rooms or areas within the premises used or available to be used by FPOTUS and his staff and in which boxes or documents could be stored, including all structures or buildings on the estate,” the warrant says, using the acronym “FPOTUS” to refer to the Former President of the United States.
The FBI’s warrant application to the judge specifically said that federal agents would avoid areas being rented or used by third parties, “such as Mar-a-Lago members” and “private guest suites.” Trump owns the sprawling estate, and it is his primary residence as well as a members-only club and resort.
“It is described as a mansion with approximately 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms, on a 17-acre estate,” FBI agents told the judge in their application, describing the Mar-a-Lago property.
Timeline of the search warrant execution and release
Friday, August 5: Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart signs the search warrant at 12:12 p.m., according to the warrant.
Monday, August 8: FBI agents execute the search warrant.
Thursday, August 11: Attorney General Merrick Garland announces that the Justice Department will ask a judge to unseal some of the search warrant documents, for the sake of transparency. Trump says in a late-night post on his Truth Social platform that he will “not oppose the release of documents” related to the search.
Friday, August 12: Reinhart approves the unsealing of the warrant, at the Justice Department’s request and after Trump’s lawyers agreed to the release.
CNN has reported that there has been an uptick in violent rhetoric against Reinhart on the pro-Trump internet. Amid those threats, the official website for the Southern District of Florida removed Reinhart’s biography page, his contact information and his office address, CNN previously reported.
CNN previously did not name Reinhart because of the security concerns, but is doing so now because his name is now part of the public court record.
Trump team’s response
The warrant receipts were signed by Trump attorney Christina Bobb, who has since spoken out about her presence at Mar-a-Lago during the search.
Bobb has complained that she and other Trump lawyers weren’t permitted to observe the search while it happened, but it is not standard FBI procedure to allow observers during a search.
She signed two “receipts for property,” which lists the items that the FBI took from Mar-a-Lago. Bobb signed these receipts at 6:19 p.m., when the federal agents were wrapping up their all-day search.
Bobb is a well-known promoter of pro-Trump conspiracy theories, including during her previous position at OAN, a far-right TV channel. CNN has previously reported that Bobb played a leading role in the Trump campaign’s efforts in December 2020 to put forward slates of fake GOP electors in seven states.
Kash Patel, who has been designated by Trump to handle issues with his presidential records, blamed the General Services Administration (GSA) for boxes being at the resort, claiming on Fox that it “mistakenly packed some boxes and moved them to Mar-a-Lago.”
A GSA spokesperson responded Friday that the responsibility for what is moved when a president leaves office “rests entirely with the outgoing president and their supporting staff.”
Patel, a former national security official in the Trump administration, said that Trump declassified sets of documents at the end of his presidency. He wouldn’t say whether the boxes recovered at Mar-a-Lago were part of that declassification.
When asked about the declassification process, Patel said that while there is a “normal” process for government employees, the president has “unilateral classification authority to classify or declassify. If he says something is declassified, that’s it, then it’s declassified.”
There are federal regulations that lay out a process for a president to declassify documents.
This story has been updated with additional details Friday.
CNN’s Elizabeth Stuart and Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.