Highly classified documents retrieved from former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate contained sensitive material related to China and Iran, The Washington Post reported on Friday. The documents included a description of Iran’s missile program and information regarding intelligence operations in China.
Experts tell the Post that improper handling of the materials could jeopardize the availability of intelligence channels, as well as the safety of intelligence agents abroad. The insecure storage of the materials could also open up the United States to retaliation by states targeted in the operations.
Trump had previously denied that he kept nuclear secrets after his departure from the presidency, before attempting to shift attention to Obama. Following a report from the Post indicating investigators believed he had retained classified documents related to nuclear weapons programs, Trump responded by calling the claims a “hoax” and suggested FBI agents who raided his home could have been “planting information.”
The Justice Department seized more than a hundred classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in August, and has said the trove of material included various sets of documents marked as “top secret.”
The findings are concerning to law enforcement for a variety of obvious reasons, including that Mar-a-Lago does not operate a secure storage location for classified materials. Earlier this month, reports emerged about security footage from the Palm Beach property showing an aide to the president moving boxes out of the storage room where the material had been kept. The footage allegedly shows the aid, Walt Nauta, moving materials out of the room both before and after the DOJ issued a subpoena ordering Trump to return all classified material being held at his estate. The DOJ subsequently asked Trump and his legal team to secure the storage room with a lock.
Trump is currently fighting tooth and nail to prevent the DOJ from accessing the documents retrieved from his home. The president’s legal team pushed for the appointment of a “special master” to arbitrate the president’s claims of executive privilege over many of the documents. The efforts have been met with heavy doses of dismissal from judges, as well as the special master himself. The Supreme Court also rejected Trump’s request to block the government from accessing the documents. Judge Raymond Dearie, who was appointed special master, has told the former president to either offer up evidence of his claims to have declassified documents and exert executive privilege over them, or let the investigation proceed according to the law.