The FBI reportedly sought classified documents related to nuclear weapons when the bureau searched former US president Donald Trump’s Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago, earlier this week, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
The newspaper, citing people familiar with the search, said the revelation reflects the concern government officials had about the sensitive nature of information Trump and his team took to the resort after he left the White House.
It’s unclear what type of documents the FBI sought or if they pertained to nuclear weapons belonging to the United States or other countries.
Attorney general Merrick Garland said on Thursday he personally approved the decision for the FBI to seek a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, adding he had moved for the Department of Justice to make the warrant public. Officials had reportedly been searching for any potentially sensitive classified documents that had been improperly taken to the resort.
Garland declined to provide details about the investigation on Thursday and would not say what the FBI retrieved.
“The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” meaning a motion to unseal the search warrant, the Thursday filing read. “That said, the former President should have an opportunity to respond to this motion and lodge objections, including with regards to any ‘legitimate privacy interests’ or the potential for other ‘injury’ if these materials are made public.”
Trump denounced the FBI’s search on Monday evening, declaring: “These are dark times for our nation.”
“Nothing like this has ever happened to a president of the United States before,” he said in a statement. “Such an assault could only take place in broken, third world countries. Sadly, America has now become one of those countries, corrupt at a level not seen before.”
The government’s concern over the documents came after the National Archives earlier this year retrieved 15 boxes of records Trump took with him when he left office. The agency said in February those boxes contained classified information and other materials subject to the Presidential Records Act, which requires such items to be turned over to the federal government.
But officials grew concerned in recent months that the president hadn’t turned over all of the documents he had.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that the Justice Department sent Trump a subpoena seeking any additional classified material last spring.
The former president and his allies have begun spreading a conspiracy theory that any damaging documents found during the search were planted there by the FBI. The agency’s current director, Christopher Wray, was appointed by Trump in 2017 after Trump fired James Comey.
The search has widened the ideological chasm over the former president and his continuing influence over American politics. Republicans have denounced the FBI — with some frothing for the agency to be defunded — and Trump supporters have rushed to defend him.
FBI agents were engaged in a standoff with a gunman in Ohio on Thursday who allegedly tried to force his way into the bureau’s Cincinnati office. The man who was killed by authorities had made previous threats against the agency.