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Donald Trump’s document stash

Donald Trump’s document stash


The FBI discovered 11 sets of classified documents at Donald Trump’s Palm Beach home, some of them were top secret. What will the fallout be for the former president?

Hello, I’m Claudia and this is the Sensemaker from Tortoise.

One story every day to make sense of the world.

To find out more about Tortoise and how to become a member, just click on the link in this episode’s description.

Today, the FBI’s search of Donald Trump’s Florida home. 


“Tonight, we start off with some breaking news. The FBI has served a search warrant on former president Donald Trump’s, Margo home in Palm beach, Florida.”

“Former president Trump said his home was raided and he said FBI agents even broke into his safe.”

Breaking news clips

When the FBI searched Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago beach club last week, the former president was the one to break the news to the world. 

In a furious statement to his supporters, he said: 

“These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents….It is prosecutorial misconduct, the weaponization of the Justice System, and an attack by Radical Left Democrats.”

Donald Trump called the search “political targeting of the highest level” and questioned its legitimacy.  

It’s the first time a former president’s home has been searched by agents.

To get the warrant, the FBI had to justify the decision to a Florida judge, and show that they were likely to find evidence of a crime. 

The search even had sign off from the very top of the US Justice Department – from the attorney general, Merrick Garland. 

“I personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter. The department does not take such a decision lightly.

Merrick Garland, C-Span

But what exactly were the FBI looking for….and what did they find? 


The FBI were searching for documents… documents from Donald Trump’s White House.

There’s a law called the Presidential Records Act which says that a president’s official papers are the property of the American people. 

When they leave the White House, former presidents are meant to turn over all of their records and documents from their time in office to the National Archives. 

But Donald Trump’s record keeping was never exactly…conventional…

“Everything from memos and notes and letters and even news articles he doesn’t like he rips them up. But the problem is those are all official documents that need to be kept intact.”


“I’ll just read what Axios has printed this morning: ‘While president Tump was in office staff in the White House residents periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet in the White House residence most believe the president had been flushing documents down his toilet.” 


Aides had to piece together papers he’d ripped up and chucked in the bin…

Sometimes he even flushed them down the toilet. 

So you can imagine that when he left the Oval Office, he didn’t follow convention either… 

Instead of sending all his records to be archived, he took boxes and boxes of papers with him to Mar-a-Lago. 

The National Archives knew that there was material missing. And they asked Donald Trump to hand it over. 

Eventually, in January of this year, Trump’s team sent 15 boxes of documents from Florida to the archives. 

But when the papers arrived, the National Archives realised that Trump hadn’t just been keeping hold of some old notepads or memos…they found classified material in the boxes that Trump had kept – and so they informed the Justice Department. 

Soon, the FBI started investigating ….

Their aim was to find out: could there be even more classified material stashed at Mar-a-Lago? And could Trump or his aides have committed a crime by keeping it there?


The FBI’s search warrant – and the receipt listing what they took away – was made public on Friday.

It shows that Donald Trump was keeping some incredibly sensitive documents at his house… 

“Federal agents removed 11 sets of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago. Four sets were labeled top secret and reportedly may contain information about nuclear weapons.” 

Al Jazeera

Documents are classed as “top secret” if they concern things like defence and national security.  If papers that important were to get into the wrong hands, it might be dangerous for the United States. 

The search warrant also held clues about which laws the FBI suspects had been broken…and it’s not just the Presidential Records Act…: 

“Federal investigators say Mr Trump may have broken the law under the espionage act, which prohibits the unauthorised possession of national security information that could harm the United States or help America’s adversaries. They say he also may have violated a federal law that makes it a crime to destroy, conceal, or alter documents to obstruct a government investigation.”


We still don’t know much about what exactly the FBI found, but the signs all point to something really serious. 

So what might it mean for Trump’s political future?


For any other politician, the FBI searching their home would probably be game over. But Donald Trump is nothing if not an opportunist.

Trump and his  supporters in the media are spinning the FBI search as evidence that “the establishment” is out to get him. 

Here’s what Fox News host Sean Hannity had to say about the search:

“I said on day one that this was just one great big giant fishing expedition and I believe this is all the pretext and they were looking for any and all documents of Mar-a-Lago. It’s official, we are now fully immersed in yet another anti-trump witch hunt.”

Sean Hannity, Fox News

But this time, the spin might not work for Donald Trump.

Law enforcement thinks he may have severely breached national security laws.

If they charge him with a crime, he could face years in prison…