Photo: Jim Rassol/AP
The FBI sought to search Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after finding probable cause that highly sensitive national defense information and evidence of obstruction of justice were there, according to a redacted version of the affidavit it gave to the feds agents search warrant on the former president’s property.
The affidavit — drawn up in part by the Justice Department to protect details of the criminal investigation into Trump’s unauthorized keeping of government secrets — offered several new details about the probe that a top official said remains in the “early stages ».
Related: The FBI sought national defense documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, according to affidavits
Here are five items from the redacted version of the affidavit, unsealed by federal judge Bruce Reinhart in West Palm Beach, Florida, who authorized the original search warrant and is overseeing the case.
New details on possible cause
Mainly in the affidavit: the Justice Department had reasonable grounds to believe that crimes were committed in specific areas of Mar-a-Lago, including Trump’s home, the foyer of his residence known as Pine Hall, his “45 Office” and a warehouse facility, among other locations.
The affidavit did not provide an indication of possible charges against the 45th and former US president, but said the FBI believed “obstructive evidence” would be found at the facility – suggesting a broader investigation than the government’s efforts to recover sensitive documents.
New details on FBI sources
Speculation has swirled for weeks around Trump and his team about how the FBI knew about the location of his safe and specific rooms where sensitive documents remained, and the Justice Department appeared to offer a glimpse into where that information might have come from. .
The Justice Department said in a legal memo explaining its wording in the affidavit that it sought to protect “a significant number of civilian witnesses” — the first such report surrounding its sources — as well as other FBI and U.S. government personnel.
Classification is irrelevant
Regarding the discussion in the affidavit about classified or declassified material kept by Trump at Mar-a-Lago, the Justice Department noted that the classification is not relevant to violations of the Espionage Act or the Act on Removal of Official Documents.
The Justice Department explained in a footnote that the law criminalizes “the unlawful retention of information related to national defense” that could harm the United States or aid an adversary, regardless of whether the document is classified or declassified.
The FBI’s primary concern
As part of the justification for seeking a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, the affidavit describes how an FBI review of materials returned by Trump to the National Archives in May 2022 showed a history of keeping some of its most sensitive secrets. US government. at Mar-a-Lago.
The justice department said that among the documents retrieved from the National Archives, 184 were classified. Some also had markings denoting “SI” for special intelligence, “HCS” for information from human secret sources, and “NOFORN” for “Cannot be released to foreign nationals.”
The warehouse must be secured
Some people close to Trump tried to suggest they were surprised the Justice Department deemed the storage space insufficient to hold boxes of classified information because officials had reportedly only asked for a “stronger lock” on the door, which had been installed.
However, the affidavit made no mention of a lock. In fact, it showed the Justice Department told Trump’s lawyer Evan Corcoran in June that Mar-a-Lago was not authorized to store classified information and asked that the room be kept in its state until further notice — suggesting it was already under investigation. .