The Justice Department on Friday unsealed a redacted version of the affidavit used to obtain the FBI’s warrant to search former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
The release of the 38-page document comes a day after a federal judge ordered the Justice Department to unseal the affidavit — which detailed the probable cause on which the search warrant was based — without revealing the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents, information of jurors. or anything else that would jeopardize the ongoing investigation into Trump’s handling of classified material.
Many news organizations had filed motions for his release, citing intense public interest in the case.
Here are some of the key points from the unsealed affidavit.
The FBI found more than 100 classified documents during the 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 examined those boxes in mid-May and found that 14 of the 15 contained classified information of some kind.
The boxes reportedly contained 184 uniquely marked documents, including 67 marked confidential, 92 secret and 25 top secret. Trump has denied reports that some of the documents are linked to nuclear weapons. The FBI said some of the documents were marked “HCS,” referring to secret human sources or intelligence personnel, and “SI,” which is information derived from monitoring foreign communications channels. The affidavit claims that “several of the documents also contained what appears to be [Trump’s] handwritten notes”.
Heavy corrections required to protect ‘significant number of civilian witnesses’
In addition to the affidavit, a Justice Department court filing explaining the need for heavy corrections was released. (That memo was heavily redacted.) According to U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez, “the materials marked by the government for redaction in the attached document must remain sealed to protect the security and privacy of a significant number of politicians witnesses, in addition to law enforcement personnel.”
“If witnesses’ identities are revealed, they could suffer harm, including retaliation, intimidation or harassment, and even threats to their physical safety,” the memo said. “As the Court has already pointed out, “these concerns are not hypothetical in this case.” revealed prematurely.”
The FBI didn’t consider Mar-a-Lago a safe place to store classified documents, even with the extra lock
Trump has repeatedly insisted that the FBI raid was unnecessary because, he claims, he and his legal representatives had previously cooperated with the Justice Department in the investigation of the Mar-a-Lago documents. Specifically, he noted that during the search of the Palm Beach estate, agents broke a lock added at the request of the Justice Department to a storage area that housed some of the documents after a department employee visited the property in June.
The affidavit unsealed Friday includes part of a letter a Justice Department official sent to Trump’s council after that June visit, asking that the warehouse be secured.
The letter, part of which has been redacted, explains that because “Mar-a-Lago does not include a secure location authorized to store classified information,” the classified documents that have been kept there since Trump left the White House in January of 2021 “They have not been properly treated or stored in a proper location.”
“Therefore,” the letter continues, “we request that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents were stored and all boxes moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) to be kept in that room in their current state until further notice.’
[Read the FBI’s affidavit to search Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate]
The affidavit then notes that Trump’s counsel sent an email the next day confirming receipt of the DOJ letter, but that did not appear to satisfy the department’s concerns about the security of the documents at Mar-a-Lago. Towards the end of the heavily redacted court filing, the FBI appears to conclude that, even with the added lock, the storage area is still not an appropriate place for the kinds of documents that had been moved to Mar-a-Lago. It also seems to suggest that all the boxes that had been moved from the White House may not have been moved to this enhanced storage facility as requested by the Justice Department.
“Based on this investigation, I believe that the STORAGE ROOM, the FPOTUS residential suite, Pine Hall, the ’45 Office’ and other areas within the PREMISES are not currently authorized locations for the storage of classified information or [National Defense Information]”, the affidavit states. “Also, based on this investigation, I do not believe that any areas within the FACILITIES have been authorized to store classified information since at least the end of FPOTUS’ Presidential Administration on January 20, 2021.”
There was probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction would be found
A search warrant and proof of ownership unsealed days after the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Fla., said the former president is under investigation for several potential crimes, including possible violations of the Espionage Act and possible obstruction of justice. categories of justice.
In the affidavit, prosecutors said there was probable cause to believe that additional classified documents or presidential records “subject to record-keeping requirements” would be found at Mar-a-Lago, and that there was also probable cause to believe that tampering evidence would be found at Mar-a-Lago. in the facilities.
“There is probable cause to believe that documents containing classified NDI and Presidential Records remain on the premises,” the affidavit states.
Trump complains about deletions – and attacks the judge
In a post on the social media platform Truth Social, Trump complained that the affidavit was “very redacted!!!” and lamented that he misled the documents he did before the FBI investigation.
“WE GAVE THEM TOO MUCH,” Trump wrote before attacking the federal judge who approved the warrant.
“Judge Bruce Rinehart should NEVER have allowed the invasion of my home,” Trump added. “He withdrew two months ago from one of my cases based on his enmity and hatred for your beloved President, me. What changed; Why didn’t he drop this case? Obama must be very proud of him right now!”
The former president and his lawyers never formally asked Reinhart to recuse himself from the case, and Trump and his team did not engage in legal arguments to release the affidavit.
Trump has claimed without evidence that the probe is a politically motivated “weapon” of the Justice Department. He also suggested the FBI “planted” evidence and insisted he had a “standing order” to declassify documents that left the Oval Office for his residence.
President Biden denied having advance notice of the investigation.
At the White House on Friday, Biden was asked if he believed national security was threatened by documents at Mar-a-Lago.
“We’ll let the Justice Department decide that,” Biden said.