Classified Government documents scattered on the floor of Donald Trump’s office at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida

The classified documents taken by Donald Trump to his Mar-a-Lago home and resort in Florida included sensitive intelligence on Iran and China, according to “people familiar with the matter”.

Trump’s removal of the documents, keeping them in unsecured areas at Mar-a-Lago, posed a critical security risk. Anyone obtaining the material could find out about US intelligence-gathering methods. People aiding American operations could be endangered, and collection methods could be compromised.

At least one of the documents describes Iran’s missile program.

More than 320 classified documents have been found at Mar-a-Lago, including 103 from the FBI’s execution of a search warrant in August. Some detail top-secret US operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are not informed about them.

The FBI also found 48 empty folders which were marked as containing classified information, and another 40 empty folders with sensitive documents that the user should “return to staff secretary/military aide”.

Appeals Court Restores Justice Department Investigation of Trump’s Stolen Classified Documents

Trump has dismissed the seriousness of the breach, saying he can declassify material “even by thinking about it.” On Friday night, he railed on social media about “the Document Hoax” and suggested the FBI and the National Archives are trying to frame him.

David Laufman, a former senior Justice Department official, explained the seriousness of the case:

The exceptional sensitivity of these documents, and the reckless exposure of invaluable sources and methods of US intelligence capabilities concerning these foreign adversaries, will certainly influence the Justice Department’s determination of whether to charge Mr. Trump or others with willful retention of national defense information under the Espionage Act.