WASHINGTON — Documents found in 15 boxes that former President Donald Trump turned over from his Mar-a-Lago property in January were marked classified at a level suggesting they included some of the government’s most sensitive secrets.
The National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA, informed Trump's lawyers about the discovery in a letter in May, which was posted on its website Tuesday. The letter was first published on the website of conservative journalist John Solomon.
After Trump's lawyers turned over 15 boxes in January, officials at the National Archives identified items inside the boxes "marked as classified national security information, up to the level of top secret and including sensitive compartmented information and special access program materials," the letter said. That suggests Trump took home the most highly protected material in the U.S. government — material that, if disclosed, could betray sources and methods.
The National Archives then "informed the Department of Justice about that discovery, which prompted the department to ask the president to request that NARA provide the FBI with access to the boxes at issue so that the FBI and others in the intelligence community could examine them," the letter said.
"As the Department of Justice’s national security division explained to you on April 29, 2022: There are important national security interests in the FBI and others in the intelligence community getting access to these materials," the letter said. "According to NARA, among the materials in the boxes are over 100 documents with classification markings, comprising more than 700 pages. Some include the highest levels of classification, including special access program (SAP) materials."
The letter said President Joe Biden waived any executive privilege claims Trump may assert over the documents. The National Archives also made it clear that the Justice Department's National Security Division was seeking to "conduct an assessment of the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials were stored and transported and take any necessary remedial steps."
NBC News reported in February that classified material was found among the boxes the National Archives took in January. The May letter went into further detail about their classified statuses.
The Presidential Records Act mandates that all presidential records must be properly preserved by each administration so that a complete set of records is transferred to the National Archives at the end of an administration.
FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago this month and recovered a trove of additional top secret and other highly classified documents, according to court documents unsealed by a federal judge in Florida.
Federal agents removed 11 sets of classified documents, including some labeled secret and top secret, according to documents obtained by NBC News shortly before the judge unsealed them.