This is an aerial view of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate on August 10 in Palm Beach, Florida.

This is an aerial view of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on August 10 in Palm Beach, Florida.

AP file

After losing the 2020 election, Donald Trump moved dozens of boxes filled with presidential, government and classified documents to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, where he lives with his family and operates a private club. Since then, the National Archives and Records Administration, the federal agency tasked with preserving those documents after the presidents leave, has been trying to retrieve all of Trump’s documents — a dispute that has escalated into an FBI investigation into his alleged misconduct. management of sensitive national security files.

Here are the main developments and turning points:

National Archives

  • In 2021, the United States National Archives continuously informed representatives of former President Trump that they were seeking to recover what they perceived to be missing records from his administration and that the records were to be turned over to the agency. under the Presidential Records Act.
  • On January 18, 2022, the National Archives received 15 boxes from Trump containing “highly classified documents” intermingled with other documents. Authorities identified 184 documents with classification marks, including 67 marked CONFIDENTIAL, 92 SECRET AND 25 TOP SECRET, according to Justice Department prosecutors. Some contained “national defense information” related to nuclear weapons.
  • On February 9, the National Archives referred the case to the FBI, and the bureau opened a criminal investigation into Trump’s alleged mishandling of highly classified documents.
  • On Feb. 18, National Archivist David Ferriero wrote a letter to the chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee summarizing the agency’s interactions with Trump and his representatives regarding the missing documents. Among various issues, he wrote to Rep. Carolyn Maloney, “NARA has identified items marked as classified national security information in the boxes.”

What does the FBI search warrant say for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago? Read for yourself


  • In mid-May, following discussions between Justice Department prosecutors and Trump’s attorneys, FBI agents conducted a “preliminary review of the 15 boxes handed over by the former president and identified documents with classification marks in 14 of them”.
  • At the same time, the FBI developed evidence indicating that even after the 15 boxes were provided to the National Archives, “dozens of additional boxes remained at Mar-a-Lago which were also likely to contain classified information” , according to prosecutors.

  • In May, a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., issued a subpoena asking “[a]ny and all documents or writings in

    custody or control of Donald J. Trump and/or the office of Donald J. Trump bearing classification marks. Trump’s lawyers have accepted the subpoena, and the deadline for returning the remaining sensitive documents has been set for May 24.

  • Trump’s lawyers requested an extension, which Justice Department lawyers initially denied and then granted. The new deadline has been set for June 7. Meanwhile, a lawyer for Trump has asked a senior Justice Department attorney and FBI agents to meet at Mar-a-Lago on June 3 and retrieve the “reactive documents.”

READ MORE: Feds expand probe into Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified records to grand jury obstruction


  • That day, Justice Department attorney Jay Bratt and a group of FBI agents collected the new evidence from Trump’s attorney and a custodian of his records. The additional records subpoenaed were collected by Trump’s team from a storage area at Mar-a-Lago. A representative for Trump signed an affidavit attesting that all documents requested through the subpoena had been delivered.

  • During their subsequent review, FBI agents found “38 unique documents bearing classification marks, including 5 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 16 documents marked as SECRET, and 17 documents marked as TOP SECRET.” In a court filing, federal prosecutors said the former president and his lawyers “provided no explanation as to why boxes of government documents, including 38 documents with classification marks, remained in storage. [Mar-a-Lago] nearly five months” after initially handing over 15 boxes to the National Archives in January.

  • On August 5, based on evidence and witnesses indicating that there were more classified documents at Trump’s residence, FBI agents obtained approval for a search warrant from Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart. He found that there was probable cause of criminal activity relating to Trump’s suppression of national security records, obstruction of justice and violations of the Espionage Act.

  • On August 8, during the search of Trump’s home, FBI agents seized 33 boxes, containers or other pieces of evidence containing more than 100 classified records, including “highest level classified information.” In the storage room alone, FBI agents found 76 documents bearing “classification marks.” But in addition, three classified documents located in the offices of the president’s headquarters were also seized, according to prosecutors.

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago search warrant affidavit has just been released. Read it yourself

Top Secret Trump.jpg
This image of items taken from Mar-a-Lago during the FBI’s August 8 search of the property shows that some of the documents contained cover pages labeling them “secrets” and “top secrets.” The photo was included as an attachment in a Justice Department response on August 30, 2022 to former President Donald Trump’s request to appoint a special master to review seized documents. Ministry of Justice/PACER

The hearings

  • In the aftermath, numerous news outlets called on Judge Reinhart to release the sealed search warrant and affidavit. Trump, who claimed to have “declassified” all of the sensitive documents in question, supported unsealing the court documents. Attorney General Merrick Garland expressed the Justice Department’s support for releasing part of the FBI’s search warrant, but not the affidavit.

  • On August 12, Magistrate Reinhart granted the release of part of the search warrant along with a partial list of items that FBI agents took from Trump’s home. Then, faced with increased demand for release of the FBI affidavit, the judge granted the request, but allowed Justice Department attorneys to redact sensitive parts of their investigation. On August 26, the redacted affidavit was unsealed.

  • Meanwhile, on Aug. 22, Trump’s attorneys filed a civil suit with a Trump-appointed federal judge, Aileen Cannon, asking her to appoint a special master to review confidential executive and cabinet documents. attorney-client that could have been taken by the FBI. officers during the search of Trump’s estate at Mar-a-Lago.

  • On September 1, Cannon was scheduled to make his decision during a hearing in federal court in West Palm Beach. Despite opposition from the Department of Justice, the judge indicated in court that she filed her “preliminary intention” to grant the request of Trump’s lawyers.

Jay Weaver writes about federal crime at the crossroads of South Florida and Latin America. Since joining the Miami Herald in 1999, he’s covered the federal courts non-stop, from Elian’s custody battle to A-Rod’s steroid abuse. He was part of the Herald team that won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news on the seizure of Elian by federal agents. He and three Herald colleagues were finalists for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting for a series on gold smuggling from South America to Miami.