Sarah Jones Breaks It Down

Seized Documents at Mar-a-Lago

Episode Summary

What did the FBI find during the search of former president Trump’s property? Sarah talks about the investigation at Mar-a-Lago. And what is monkeypox? Susan Michaels-Strasser, the assistant professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Medical Center, shares about this zoonotic disease.

Episode Notes

What did the FBI find during the search of former president Trump’s property? Sarah talks about the investigation at Mar-a-Lago. And what is monkeypox? Susan Michaels-Strasser, the assistant professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Medical Center, shares about this zoonotic disease.

Sources Consulted:

Attorney general Merrick Garland delivers remarks. The United States Department of Justice. (2022, August 11). Retrieved August 15, 2022, from

Desk, N. P. R. W. (2022, August 12). Read the full warrant documents from FBI search of Trump's mar-a-lago home. NPR. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from

National Archives and Records Administration. (n.d.). Press statements in response to media queries about Presidential Records. National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from

Read the unsealed DOJ documents underpinning search of Trump's mar-a-lago. POLITICO. (n.d.). Retrieved August 15, 2022, from

S.139 - FISA amendments reauthorization act of 2017 115th ... - congress. (n.d.). Retrieved August 15, 2022, from

Schorsch, P. (2022, August 8). Scoop - the Federal Bureau of Investigation @FBI today executed a search warrant at mar-a-lago, two sources confirm to @Fla_Pol."they just left," one source said.not sure what the search warrant was about.TBH, Im not a strong enough reporter to hunt this down, but its real. Twitter. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from

Thrush, G., Haberman, M., & Protess, B. (2022, August 11). Trump search said to be part of effort to find highly classified material. The New York Times. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from

Trump authorizes DOJ to declassify Russia probe documents. POLITICO. (n.d.). Retrieved August 15, 2022, from

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Episode Transcription

Sarah Jones Breaks It Down: A Kids News Podcast

S1 EP09 Seized Documents at Mar-a-Lago


Sarah: This is Sarah Jones Breaks It Down. 

I’m Sarah,  and I’m here to help us better understand what’s happening in the world. 


Because, as a journalist, that’s my job. 

And this world isn’t just filled with adults…

Jonah: Nope!

Sarah: It’s our world. 

So, every week we’ll talk about the stories that you may overhear some adults talking about and we’ll… 

Group of Kids: Break it down.

Sarah: Break. It. Down.


Sarah: The FBI search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida. Let’s get into it. 


Sarah: Now, let’s break it down so that we really understand. 

So first let’s provide some historical background and then let’s look at what went down over the past few days chronologically, which means in the order that the events happened.

Ok, background.

On January 20th, 2021, when President Trump left the White House at the end of his term, all of his documents and records should have gone from the White House to the National Archives. 

That’s because for the last half a century or so, presidential documents have been considered property of the American people and not personal property of the President. 

This basically goes back to the Nixon administration and the Watergate scandal. 

That's when it became a law that any presidential documents, top secret or not, are supposed to go directly to the National Archives when the President ends their term.

The National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA, is an independent federal agency of the executive branch and “is the nation's record keeper of all documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the US Federal Government.”

And they have the right to  pursue “the return of records whenever they learn that records have been improperly removed or have not been appropriately transferred to official accounts.”  

In January 2018, when Donald Trump was president, he signed a change to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act into law. That change is called S.139. The charge of moving classified material changed from a misdemeanor to a more serious charge of a felony — and increased the maximum sentence from a fine and/or one year in prison, to a fine and/or five years.

Now it’s important to remember this law pertains to classified material only.

Also on background, less than 24 hours before leaving office in 2021, President Trump authorized the Department of Justice to declassify a set of documents related to the investigation of his contacts with Russia during his 2016 campaign. 

According to a 2021 article by Politico, “the FBI responded that it believed that all of the materials should remain classified, but that some were particularly crucial and should at least be redacted.” And that, President Trump agreed. 

Ok, so now onto chronology. 

Back in January 2022, NARA said some of Trump’s presidential records that it received “included paper records that had been torn up by former President Trump. As has been reported in the press since 2018, White House records management officials during the Trump Administration recovered and taped together some of the torn-up records. These were turned over to the National Archives at the end of the Trump’s administration, along with a number of torn-up records that had not been reconstructed by the White House.”

That was back  in January of this year. 

Then in mid-January 2022, NARA says it arranged for the transport of 15 boxes that contained Presidential records from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives after “discussions with President Trump’s representatives in 2021. Former President Trump’s representatives have informed NARA that they are continuing to search for additional Presidential records that belong to the National Archives.”

Keep in mind these documents should have all been with NARA as of January 2021, when President Trump left office.

NARA says that for the last twelve months, Trump representatives helped locate presidential records that had not been transferred and that whenever they were informed of located records, 

NARA would arrange for the documents to be securely transported to Washington.

Now the New York Times reported that a grand jury subpoenaed former President Donald Trump for classified documents he took from the White House to Mar-a-Lago before the FBI search in Florida. 

The FBI hasn’t commented on this reported subpoena. 

Actually, the FBI said they weren’t even going to publicly speak about the search.

But former President Trump publicly confirmed the search, which the FBI says is his right. 

Also, to be honest, there was a local reporter who tweeted that there was a search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago, so it probably would have eventually come out. 

So what do we know now that it has all been made public after Trump said he did not object to the release of the warrant and its receipt?

We know that the warrant gave prosecutors the right to seize documents and records containing evidence in violation of three laws.

One of those is Code 793 prevents unauthorized possession of national defense information. It doesn’t mention whether the documents have to be classified or not, and it can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Then there are Codes 2071 and 1519. They both relate to concealing or destroying official documents. Neither of these codes require the documents or materials to be classified. Code 2071 can result in three year in prison and Code 1519 can land someone up to 20 years in prison. 

For a warrant you just have to show probable cause that these laws have been violated. 

Let’s be very clear that former President Trump has not been charged with any crime.

Now what do we know about what the FBI agents found when they searched Mar-a-Lago? 

We know that the FBI removed dozens of items, some were described as a binder of photos or a handwritten note. But there were several items that were listed on the receipt as documents marked as confidential, top secret, or secret. 

Now what’s in these documents or how essential they are to national security remains unknown to the general public. Trump says that all the documents that were in Mar-a-Lago were declassified. The general public and the media can’t independently verify that statement at this time. All we know is that he is under investigation for the laws listed in the search warrant. 


Sarah: So now you know a little bit more about the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago.

But information is for everyone, and everyone matters…

Group of Kids: Everyone matters.

Sarah: Let’s talk about something that’s going on in the world that isn’t getting as much attention, but should be. 

We’ve seen a lot on the news about the pandemic, and monkeypox but not about the context and understanding the cause. 

So you know from previous episodes that when it comes to current affairs, history is a great place to look for context. 

And we’ve talked about research and vetting information. 

And when it comes to health, science or statistics, peer-reviewed research and science is your foundation. So let's talk about what's happening in our world health wise?

It seems like every couple months there’s a new virus emerging. 

Susan: As we encroach on environments where it's typically inhabited by animals, especially wild animals, not humans, then, when we encroach on their environment, there's a chance of what is commonly termed spillover. So spillover of diseases from animals to humans or vice versa from humans to animals. 

And as we move into more and more areas that were previously natural habitats for animals, that risk increases. And, and that is one of the reasons that we're seeing more diseases and hearing about more diseases that we haven't heard about before. 

Sarah: Another less researched variable or factor for why we’re seeing more viruses than we have in the past could be climate change.

Susan: Climate change is, is having many impacts that, that we're still learning about. Weather patterns have have become more erratic, more unpredictable, more severe, but they also are affecting our environment. And what effect they have on animals on humans and organisms is really something that must be studied in much greater detail. 

Sarah: Is it possible that the changes in the environment and climate could be causing viruses to mutate or emerge more? Or, you know, kind of, is that a potential factor that we don't know about enough about?

Susan: I believe it could be, and we don't know enough.

Sarah: We’re still not sure why the viruses are transferring more from human-to-human, but the fact that we travel more globally and our cities are bigger does mean the risk of  wider reach by these viruses is higher.

Susan: Yeah. What is happening now is different than has happened in the past.

Typically monkeypox is what we call endemic. So it's common. In areas of Africa and west and central Africa. So people there will have known about it. Like the flu is endemic in the United States. So it's not a new disease. It was discovered in the 1970s. 

It, it really, um, has a funny name only because it was discovered first in monkeys in a laboratory. But it really isn't, um, from monkeys. It is spread from rodents. They are the primary cause of transmission to humans, either through bites or infected droplets. 

So we're hearing about it now because something has happened that scientists don't really understand completely. But, um, it has obviously taken hold first in Europe and, and now coming to the United States in a way that monkeypox typically spread. So it seems to be spreading more easily and we don't really know why that is. And, and scientists are trying obviously to figure that out. 

Sarah: Is this, uh, a factor of like people being more populated and having more modes of transportation? Or is it more something structural with the virus itself that it potentially mutated and is more transmissible?

Susan: That's a great question. And, and I don't think we have a definitive answer on that yet. But it could be both. It could be a combination of the two. Um, that would make sense, but we need more time, um, for scientists to study this and look at it and, and understand. 

But we do know for the first possible cause that you said that is always a contributing factor to virus spread. Where there are more people where people are moving from place to place traveling between regions and countries and continents, that does facilitate or enable or help the spread of disease. 

So in general, we know that the spread of disease. Increases when people, when there are a lot of people together and people are moving around between, uh, places.

Sarah: And the problem with some viruses, like monkeypox for example, is that people who are asymptomatic, meaning they don’t have any symptoms, can infect other people around them unknowingly.

Susan: The challenge also with monkeypox is many people do not have symptoms or mild symptoms, so they don't know that they're infected, but could be transmitting the infection to others.

Sarah: We’re all noticing the change. And scientists are working hard to research and understand why. 

For humans, one of the biggest threats to us is zoonotic diseases. 

It’s not the only source of many diseases but it is the source of many. 

Zoonotic means something that transfers from animals to humans. We don’t have a cure for these viruses, and we don’t know every virus that exists in animals. 

While mapping every single virus in animals and finding treatments and cures before they come to humans would take a lot of money and a lot of time, there are easier ways to try to prevent the transmission of viruses from animals to humans. 

One way is to not eat bush meats or go to wet markets. 

But another way is to be mindful when interacting with an environment where a wild animal is living.

Susan: And a good example of that is in caves where bats live, um, and getting a disease, um, from the bat excrement. 

Sarah: By just like touching it or interacting in -

Susan: Someone inadvertently touching it or touching a wall where there was, uh, excrement before, you know. Really, um, in, in very, in ways that are hard to pinpoint exactly what was, what was, what we were exposed to, what the person was exposed to. 


Sarah: Thank you for listening and for breaking it down with me today.

If you have a question about the FBI search or the pandemic or zoonotic diseases, or if there’s something else going on in the world that you want us to break down, write to us or record a message and email us at

Sarah Jones Breaks It Down is written and reported by me, Sarah Jones. 

You can learn more about me and my work at

Our show is edited and produced by Matthew Winner with help from Chad Michael Snavely and the team at Sound On Studios. Our executive producer is Jelani Memory. 

And this show was brought to you by A Kids Podcast About.

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Thank you for hanging out with me and stay curious!