The Justice Department on Friday released a redacted version of an affidavit used to secure an FBI warrant to search former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
The release of the 38-page document came a day after a federal judge ordered the DOJ to unseal the affidavit — which details the probable cause on which the search warrant was based — without disclosing information from witnesses, law enforcement agents, and the grand jury. Or anything else that would compromise the ongoing investigation into Trump’s handling of classified material.
Several news organizations had filed petitions for his release, citing intense public interest in the case.
Here are some important points in an unsealed affidavit:
The FBI found more than 100 classified documents in its initial review
It was reported earlier this year that the National Archives and Records Administration recovered 15 boxes of documents and other items from Mar-a-Lago in January. According to the affidavit, the FBI reviewed those boxes in mid-May and found that 14 of the 15 boxes contained some type of classified information.
The box allegedly contained 184 unique documents with classification symbols, including 67 marked as confidential, 92 marked as secret, and 25 marked as top secret. Trump has denied reports linking some of the documents to nuclear weapons. The FBI said some of the documents are marked “HCS,” which refers to covert human sources or intelligence personnel, and “SI,” which refers to information obtained through surveillance of foreign communications channels. The affidavit alleges that “many of the documents are what they appear to be [Trump’s] Handwritten notes.”
Protecting ‘a large number of civilian witnesses’ requires major reform
In addition to the affidavit, a Justice Department court filing was released that explained the need for major reforms. (That memo itself was heavily redacted.) According to US Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez, “material marked by the government for redaction in the attached document must, in addition to the law, be sealed to protect the safety and privacy of the large number of civilian witnesses. enforcement staff.”
“If witnesses’ identities are revealed, they may face harm, including retaliation, intimidation or harassment, and threats to their physical safety,” read the memo. “As the court has already noted, ‘these concerns are not hypothetical in this case.'” Gonzalez added that “the government’s concern is that steps may be taken to frustrate or otherwise interfere with this investigation if the affidavit is true. Premature disclosure.”
The FBI did not consider Mar-a-Lago a safe place to store classified documents, even with additional locks.
Trump has repeatedly insisted that the FBI raid was unnecessary because, he claims, he and his legal representatives were previously cooperating with the Justice Department’s investigation of documents at Mar-a-Lago. Specifically, he noted that during the search of the Palm Beach estate, agents broke a lock attached to a storage area where some documents were kept, at the DOJ’s request, after a department official visited the property in June.
The affidavit, unsealed Friday, includes part of a letter a Justice Department official sent to Trump’s council after the June visit, requesting that the storage room be secured.
The letter, which has been redacted in part, clarified that “Mar-a-Lago does not include an official secure location for storing classified information,” classified documents that have been kept there since Trump left the White House in January 2021. “Not handled properly or stored in proper location.”
“Accordingly,” the letter continues, “we request that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents were kept be secured and that all boxes moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago be secured. any other items in that room) save in their current state in that room until further notice.
[Read the FBI’s affidavit to search Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate]
The affidavit noted that Trump’s lawyer sent an email the next day acknowledging receipt of the DOJ letter, but that did not appear to address the department’s concerns about the security of the documents at Mar-a-Lago. At the end of the heavily redacted court filing, the FBI concluded that, even with the additional locks, the storage area was still not an appropriate setting for the types of documents transported to Mar-a-Lago. This suggests that not all of the boxes moved from the White House may have been moved to that reinforced storage space as requested by the DOJ.
“Based on this investigation, I believe that the storage room, the FPOTUS’ residence suite, Pine Hall, the ’45 office’ and other locations in the area are not currently authorized locations for the storage of classified information or [National Defense Information]” is stated in the affidavit. “Also, based on this investigation, I do not believe that any locations within the PREMISES have been authorized for the storage of classified information since at least January 20, 2021, the end of FPOTUS’ presidential administration.”
There was probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction would be found
The FBI on Aug. 8 in Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla. A search warrant and a receipt for the property, days after the house was searched, revealed that the former president is under investigation for a number of possible crimes, including possible violations of the Espionage Act and possible obstruction of justice charges. .
In the affidavit, prosecutors said there was probable cause to believe additional classified documents or presidential records “subject to records retention requirements” could be found at Mar-a-Lago, and there was probable cause to believe there would be evidence of obstruction. will be found in the premises.
“There is probable cause to believe that classified NDI and documents containing the President’s records will remain in place,” the affidavit said.
Trump complains about redactions — and attacks judges
In a post on his social media platform Truth Social, Trump complained that the affidavit was “massively redacted!!!” And bemoaned turning over documents he made before the FBI search.
“We gave them too much,” Trump wrote before attacking the federal judge who granted the warrant.
“Judge Bruce Reinhart should never have allowed the break-in of my house,” Trump added. “Your favorite President, he recused himself from one of my cases two months ago based on his animosity and hatred towards me. What changed? Why did they not acquit themselves in this case? Obama would be so proud of that right now!”
The former president and his lawyers have not formally asked Reinhart to recuse himself from the case, and Trump and his team have not participated in legal arguments over the release of the affidavit.
Trump has claimed, without evidence, that the investigation is a politically motivated “weaponization” of the Justice Department. He has also suggested the FBI planted evidence and insisted he has a “standing order” to declassify documents brought to his residence from the Oval Office.
President Biden has denied giving him any advance notice of the search.
At the White House on Friday, Biden was asked if the documents at Mar-a-Lago put national security at risk.
“We’ll let the Justice Department decide that,” Biden replied.