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What is Donald Trump being investigated for according to the FBI search warrant?

Attorney General Merrick Garland signed off a search warrant authorizing Federal investigators to conduct a search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida.

The three page itemized list of property seized in the execution of a search warrant by the FBI at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate is seen after being released by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. August 12, 2022.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seized “top secret” files during a raid on former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, according to court documents released on Friday.

Investigators suspect the former president, by illegally possessing classified documents, violated a US espionage law.

Several court documents were released Friday by a Florida judge: the warrant authorising the search and a lengthy inventory of documents seized Monday by FBI agents.

Some were marked “top secret” and were to be “available only in special government facilities,” the seven-page federal court order states.

Trump could face severe punishment in New York
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An officer from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) stands guard inside Trump TowerANDREW KELLYREUTERS

The court document contains a list of items seized from Mar-a-Lago, including information about the “president of France”.

The Justice Department asked a Florida judge to unseal the search warrant on Friday despite objections from Trump, who is weighing a run for the White House again in 2024.

The former president said he would not block the release of the warrant, while complaining that he had been the victim of an “unprecedented” political operation that he attributed to “radical left-wing Democrats”.

Trump and his lawyers had a copy of the search warrant and the receipt listing what was seized by FBI agents.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the 20 boxes of documents taken by FBI agents included folders with photos, a handwritten note and the pardon given by Trump to Roger Stone, an ally of his.

An itemized list of property seized in the execution of a search warrant by the FBI at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate
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An itemized list of property seized in the execution of a search warrant by the FBI at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estateJIM BOURGREUTERS

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that some of the documents sought could be related to the US nuclear arsenal. But earlier on Friday Trump alleged on his social networking site Truth Social that the FBI may have been “planting information” at his residence.

“The nuclear weapons thing is a hoax,” he commented.

The Justice Department’s highly unusual willingness to release the search warrant, announced on Thursday by Attorney General Merrick Garland, was welcomed by the former president.

“Not only will I not oppose the release of the documents related to the search (...) but I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents,” he wrote on Truth Social, but refrained from making public the copy of the warrant he received.

 Donald Trump
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Republican leaders unanimously came to Trump’s defence, with some party members accusing the Justice Department and the FBI of operating politically to attack the former president.

“Baseless attacks”

In what appeared to be a direct response to the FBI’s action at Mar-a-Lago, a gunman attempted to storm an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Thursday.

The assailant, who was shot dead by police after an hour-long standoff, reportedly posted on Trump’s platform that he hoped his actions would serve as a “call to arms”.

Garland denounced, during his brief televised address, “baseless attacks” by Republicans against his portfolio and the FBI, while federal police director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee, spoke of acts of “violence and threats against law enforcement”.

The Justice Department does not normally confirm or deny whether it is investigating anyone, and Garland was at pains to emphasise that the law was being applied fairly to Trump.

In a statement, the Republican mogul maintained on Thursday that his lawyers had been “fully cooperating” with the justice system and that “the government could have gotten whatever it wanted” from him if “it had been” in his power.

Trump is also facing judicial investigations into his efforts to disregard the outcome of the 2020 election, including his role in the deadly attack on the Capitol on 6 January 2021 by his supporters.