Fox News contributor and former Trump campaign adviser Karl Rove wasn’t buying what Fox was trying to sell Friday when it came to the revised affidavit used to justify the FBI’s investigation into classified documents at the estate of former President Donald Trump.
Nearly three weeks after the feds first executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago for evidence of Trump’s possible violation of the Espionage Act, the Justice Department has unsealed the 38-page affidavit behind it. Judge Bruce E. Reinhart agreed with federal authorities that the proposed redactions were necessary to protect confidential sources and investigative methods and ordered the document unsealed by Friday afternoon.
Even with the signs, the affidavit revealed that agents believed there was “probable cause to believe evidence of obstruction would be found” and that classified national security documents were still at the facility at Mar-a-Lago. It also revealed that after the FBI examined 15 boxes returned to the National Archives by Trump earlier this year, they found “184 unique classified documents”—including 25 documents marked “TOP SECRET.”
After the affidavit was released Friday, Fox News anchors were still questioning why the Justice Department felt it necessary to execute an “unprecedented” search warrant at the former president’s home. Instead, they wondered, the feds should have issued another subpoena or tried to get Trump to cooperate in some other way.
“But why also wasn’t there another summons, another attempt to interact?” Fox News Chief Political Anchor Bret Baier he mused at one point. “Did they see a complete cruelty from the Trump people? That’s not in this document yet, at least we can’t see it.”
Rove, who has become critical of Trump’s bid to swing the 2020 election, saw things somewhat differently. In his view, the federal government gave Trump plenty of opportunities to comply while being misled by the former president’s team.
“I would suggest from an untrained perspective two things,” he told host Sandra Smith. “One is there’s a letter, I don’t know who it came from, but one of President Trump’s lawyers apparently comes in June and says you have all the classified material. We have no more classified material here at Mar-a-Lago.”
Rove was referring to a June 3 statement reportedly signed by Trump lawyer and former One America News anchor Christina Bobb and given to FBI agents, which claimed that all classified information housed at Mar-a-Lago had been returned . Bob was appointed as Trump’s custodian for the documents.
The former aide to President George W. Bush went on to say that it was highly likely that a witness tipped off the FBI that they had been “misled” by the Trump team, either through a “deliberate lie or a lie based on ignorance,” prompting the raid.
Smith, referring to comments by Fox News legal analyst Jonathan Turley, said that “the affidavit does not show that Trump’s people were completely uncooperative or uncommunicative.” Noting that Turley acknowledged that Trump “asked to turn over material and he didn’t,” she questioned why the feds took a heavy-handed approach.
“There still seems to be a huge chunk missing there in the timeline and the affidavit doesn’t seem to make it clear. Returning to New York Post headline in the middle of it all, “you could have asked,” Smith added.
“The Presidential Records Act is clear,” Rove replied. “A president does not have the right to leave the White House and choose which documents he wants to take with him. He can ask for copies, but these are the property of the American people, and since 1978, no president has walked away with some kind of pick and choose of his documents.”
Stating that the “impression in the affidavit” is that the Justice Department requested the documents multiple times and had a “general sense” of how many boxes were left after the June visit, Rove then dismissed the network’s spin on the Trump’s willingness to cooperate.
“Well, you know, maybe we should ask the administration, how many times have you asked for the material to be returned, and President Trump has said many times, ‘all they did was ask,'” he said.
“Well, I have a feeling that they were asking for a year and a half, and why he was withholding these materials when he had no legal authority to do so under the Presidential Records Act is beyond me,” Rove concluded.
“Okay, Karl Rove with his thoughts on that,” co-host John Roberts shot back. “Carl, we appreciate it. We may get back to you, depending on how the afternoon goes.”
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