COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — There were 11 classified documents found in former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. Legal experts said having classified documents in a setting that is unclassified is a crime, but it is still unclear whether the documents are still top secret.
“What is classified or what is not classified is decided by the executive and that is the President of the United States,” former federal prosecutor David DeVillers said.
DeVillers said there are reasons to have classified documents in different settings — but that setting has to have a special safe or skiff. He said, Trump could have decided those documents are no longer classified while in office.
“He would have had to have done so when he was president,” DeVillers said. “There’s a new president now who may disagree about whether these are classified or not.”
DeVillers said a big question mark is still the affidavit. If that is unsealed, it would explain investigators concluded that a crime was committed.
“They’d have to explain how they know that, how they think the evidence is going to be there which shows who told them it was there,” DeVillers said.
A search warrant can be requested at any time during an investigation, so this search does not really tell us how far along the Department of Justice is in their case.
“Sometimes people do it at the beginning, sometimes they’ll do it at the end to tie up loose ends in the investigation,” defense lawyer David Axelrod said.
Axelrod said, in general, obtaining a search warrant is easy. He said probable cause is a low standard, but when it comes to searching a former president’s home, it is more difficult to get that signed off.
“They certainly would not want to go in with probable cause, get a warrant, gear up the forces, get all this TV coverage and then have to say ‘never-mind,’” Axelrod said.
We still do not know what those classified and top secrets documents are. NBC4 will continue to keep you updated as we learn more.