The released search inventory showed that classified documents had been mixed with personal items and other materials in the boxes in which they were stored.
Federal investigators also recovered more than 11,000 unclassified government documents from former President Donald Trump’s Florida home and resort.
Several other boxes detailed in the inventory contained documents marked as classified preserved with press clippings, as well as clothing and gifts.
The court filing also provided a breakdown of the type of markings on classified material extracted from Mar-a-Lago, including 18 documents marked top secret, 54 documents marked secret and 31 documents marked confidential.
Dozens of empty folders
Among the documents seized by the FBI were dozens of empty folders bearing “classified” banners, according to the inventory.
There were more than 48 empty folders with a “classified” banner and 42 empty folders marked to be returned to the personnel secretary or a military aide, the DOJ said.
These types of records are designed to intentionally obscure their contents and are often reused, according to multiple sources familiar with White House procedures for handling classified information. In some cases, these records have a tracking number, two of the sources said, although such cases are rare.
For some current and former intelligence officials, the empty files were an alarming signal that unknown classified information might be overlooked by federal investigators, who could struggle to piece together the information those files contained before – and again. less what happened to them.
But since these folders are often reused, a source familiar with such documents warned that simply finding an empty folder is not necessarily an indication that any of the information it previously contained has been mishandled.
“Empty folders raise questions, but were they empty and without descriptive information?” said this person. “Putting a cover sheet on a folder and carrying it with several documents inside is often a done deal. It comes down to finding cover sheets, which often lie around in classified environments and are not a problem in themselves. .”
In other words, without more information about how these records were marked – including whether they included a tracking or control number – it’s unclear how easy it would be to determine their past contents. .
Still, investigators may be able to piece together some contextual clues, according to the same sources. There are supposed to be records kept of classified information passed to the president. And one of the sources noted that the National Archives informed the Department of Justice this spring that documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago in January included classified documents “unfolded, mixed with other documents and otherwise poorly understood. identified”.
The inventory also refers to dozens of files marked “Return to Secretary of Staff/Military Aid.” Typically, when the president needs access to documents for a briefing, a military aide or other staff assigned to the White House is responsible for safeguarding those documents. The president will read the material, make use of it as he sees fit, and then return it to that assistant for proper processing.
DOJ situation report cites ‘ongoing investigation’
The judge also released a status report that the department filed under seal on its team of investigators’ review of the evidence so far.
Cannon in a hearing Thursday said she intended to release the documents. She did so after giving prosecutors and Trump’s attorneys the opportunity to file objections to the release of the documents. They do not have.
Prosecutors wrote in the unsealed investigative team’s progress report that “all evidence relating to the items seized – including, but not limited to, the nature and how they were stored, as well as any evidence regarding particular documents or items of interest – will inform the government’s investigation.”
“The investigative team has reviewed the documents seized as part of its ongoing investigation, assessing the relevance and character of each item seized and making preliminary decisions on lines of investigation suggested or warranted by the character and nature of the items seized,” the situation report said. said.
“The seized materials will continue to be used to advance the government’s investigation, and the investigation will continue to use and assess the seized materials as it takes further investigative steps, such as additional witness interviews and grand jury practice,” the Justice Department added. .
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Jamie Gangel contributed to this report.