What the Dates on Trump's Secret Documents Tell Us About What Was Found

A newly unsealed image of evidence gathered at Mar-a-Lago has given the public a glimpse of the type of classified information former President Donald Trump kept in his private residence.

The image, which was included in court documents submitted as part of a Florida court case contesting the former president's claim to the classified documents, depicts a pile of top-secret files beside a banker's box containing a framed Time magazine cover and other material.

The files themselves—part of Justice Department allegations Trump lied to investigators seeking the return of classified documents from his time in the White House—reveal little on their own, and the visible contents of the pages contained within the files are heavily redacted. However, three files, all of which are restricted access, have visible dates on them: two dated August 20, 2018, and another dated May 9 of that same year.

While the contents of those documents, at this point, are purely speculative, the date of their creation and the security clearance required to view them give an approximate idea of the type of intelligence information in Trump's possession since leaving the White House early last year.

While one of the August documents is restricted as "limited access," the other is specifically designated as an originator-controlled document, barred from dissemination to foreign nationals.

Both were also created during a fraught juncture in the Trump administration's foreign policy.

Donald Trump
Above, a newly unsealed photo of evidence gathered at Mar-a-Lago. The dates and type of security clearance required to view the documents in the photo give an approximate idea of the type of intelligence information in former President Donald Trump's possession since he left the White House last year. Department of Justice/Getty

August 20 coincided with the day CNN confirmed a Saudi Arabian bomb that killed 40 Yemeni schoolchildren two weeks earlier had originally been acquired via an arms sale with the United States amid simmering tensions between the two nations. August 20 was also the day the U.S. rejected a deal with Turkey for American pastor Andrew Burton in exchange for banking sanctions relief, and the same day Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinian protesters and injured hundreds more amid intensifying protests over Israel's settlement policies within the Gaza Strip.

At the same time, Afghanistan's then-president announced a three-month ceasefire with the Taliban to mark the Muslim Eid holiday, bringing a close to what the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said, at the time, had been the bloodiest year for civilians in the Afghan conflict.

The May document, also listed as "top secret," contains no specific security classification. However, its release came in the lead-up to major events involving the United States abroad, including the escalation of the Saudi-Yemeni conflict and revelations around new human rights violations in the Syrian civil war.

The following month, Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un were scheduled to meet at a nuclear summit in Singapore, marking the first-ever meeting between leaders of the two nations. And in Russia, residents took to the streets in a new escalation of civil protests as President Vladimir Putin's government—already under renewed international scrutiny for the country's alleged role in the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17—increased military tensions with NATO and Ukraine.

Its release also came amid rising political tensions in countries like Zimbabwe and Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro was in the crosshairs of dissidents who, in early August, would make a failed attempt on his life at an event in Caracas.

The biggest coincidence with the May 9 document, however, likely lies with what happened just one day earlier: Trump's announcement that the United States would be withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.