Classified documents about nuclear weapons were among the sensitive materials that the FBI was looking for when it raided the residence of former US President Donald Trump this week, the Washington Post reported on Thursday, citing its sources.
According to experts interviewed by the outlet, the FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida on Monday indicates that the current administration is worried about the impact on US national security if these documents get into the wrong hands.
However, the Post’s sources refused to reveal whether the material in question related to nuclear weapons belonging to the US or some other state. They also declined to say whether the FBI had found what it was looking for.
The experts quoted by the Washington Post said documents on nuclear weapons are extremely sensitive in nature and only a handful of US officials have clearance to read or possess them. Details on such weapons could help Washington’s adversaries to get an insight into US defense posture and help them to develop countermeasures, while other countries could consider exposing their secrets as a threat, the report says.
According to David Laufman, the former chief of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence section, if the former US president was in fact unlawfully keeping such documents at Mar-a-Lago, they “may have been classified at the highest classification level.”
“If the FBI and the Department of Justice believed there were top secret materials still at Mar-a-Lago, that would lend itself to greater ‘hair-on-fire’ motivation to recover that material as quickly as possible,” he told the Post.
Meanwhile, former high-ranking intelligence officials told the outlet that the Trump administration “routinely mishandled” highly classified and sensitive documents, including intelligence data on Iran. Some documents, for instance, reportedly found their way into the hands of personnel who neither had an adequate clearance level, nor any need to possess them.
The Post’s sources also said intercepted electronic communications like emails and phone calls of foreign leaders often wound up in the hands of unauthorized personnel.
The outlet noted that this kind of intel is especially sensitive because it can compromise the methods used by the US to surveil foreign governments. According to one of the paper’s sources, this type of material was among the 15 boxes of inventory taken from Trump’s residence in January.
Two sources said the former president received a grand jury subpoena in relation to the documents. Trump’s team subsequently handed over some files to the authorities, but officials reportedly believed additional material was being withheld. These suspicions, the report says, prompted the US Justice Department to take extraordinary measures, including obtaining a search warrant.
While Trump’s aides were served with a warrant, they have so far refused to disclose it. The former president’s legal team has a right to argue against unsealing the document, with the final decision on the matter to be taken by a court.
The FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago has caused a lot of public outcry in the US, with Trump himself branding the move by law enforcement agents as “political persecution.”
“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,” he said, adding that “nothing like this has ever happened to a president of the United States before.”
Trump also likened the raid to the secret wiretapping of the Democratic National Committee headquarters, which ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.
His comments were echoed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who said the administration of President Joe Biden is “weaponizing” federal agencies, turning the country into a “banana republic.”
Meanwhile, Trump is widely regarded as the most likely Republican candidate to contest the 2024 presidential election. However, DeSantis could potentially run against Trump in the primary.