WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department on Friday unsealed the FBI affidavit justifying the unprecedented search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. While the released document is highly redacted, with many of its pages redacted in black blocks, it includes new details about the vast amount of sensitive and highly classified information stored at the former president’s Florida beach home, underscoring the administration’s concerns for safety.
Here are highlights of what the paper revealed:
TRUMP HAD ‘A LOT’ OF READING MATERIAL STORED IN HIS CLUB
While the affidavit does not provide new details about the 11 sets of classified files recovered during the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of Trump’s winter home, it helps explain why the Justice Department believed it was necessary to retrieve the pending documents.
Federal investigators knew months before the probe that Trump had stored top-secret government files at Mar-a-Lago, a private club that not only Trump, his staff and family have access to, but paying members and their guests, along with a revolving door. of attendees at various events such as weddings, political fundraisers and charity galas.
The affidavit notes that Mar-a-Lago storage facilities, Trump’s office, his residential suite and other areas at the club where documents were suspected to still be kept were not authorized locations for storing classified information. Indeed, he notes that no space at Mar-a-Lago had been authorized to store classified information since at least the end of Trump’s term.
However, the affidavit reveals that, of the batch of 15 boxes the National Archives and Records Administration recovered from Trump’s home in January, 14 contained classified documents. Inside, they found 184 classified documents, including 67 marked confidential, 92 classified and 25 top secret.
The Archives referred the matter to the Department of Justice on February 9 after a preliminary examination of the boxes found what it described as “a number of classified files”.
FILES INCLUDE TOP SECRET
Agents who inspected the boxes found special markings indicating they contained information from highly sensitive human sources or collection of court-approved electronic “signals” under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The affidavit lists several markings, including ORCON or “Originator Controlled.” This means that intelligence officials responsible for the report did not want it distributed to other agencies without their permission.
There may also be other types of records with classified names or code words that have yet to be deleted.
“When things are at this level of classification, it’s because there’s real danger to the people collecting the information or the capability,” said Douglas London, a former senior CIA officer who wrote a book about the agency, “The Recruiter. “
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has not responded to congressional calls for a damage estimate. Sen. Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a statement calling once again for debriefing.
“It appears, based on the affidavit unsealed this morning, that among the documents mishandled at Mar-a-Lago were some of our most sensitive secrets,” Warner said.
SORTED DISCS MIXED WITH OTHER PAPERS
Some of those classified files were mixed with other documents, the affidavit states, citing a letter from the Archives.
According to the director of the White House Archives liaison division, the boxes contained “newspapers, magazines, printed news articles, photographs, miscellaneous prints, notes, presidential correspondence, personal and post-presidential files, and “many classified files.” Several contained what appeared to be Trump’s handwritten notes.
The most important concern: “high-class records were unfolded, mixed with other records, and otherwise misidentified (sic).”
A president may receive raw intelligence reports to supplement his briefings or to cover an urgent or critical matter, said David Preece, a former CIA officer and White House counsel who wrote “The President’s Book of Secrets,” a story of the President Daily Brief.
But it would be “unusual, if not unprecedented, for a president to keep it and mix it with other documents,” he said.
“Although I was prepared for this because I knew the judge would not authorize an investigation based on something secondary, the breadth and depth of the careless handling of classified information is truly shocking,” Priess said.
TRUMP HAD REPEATED OPPORTUNITIES TO RETURN DOCUMENTS
The affidavit makes clear once again that Trump had multiple opportunities to return the documents to the government, but simply chose not to.
A lengthy process to retrieve the documents had been underway since Trump left the White House. The document states that on or about May 6, 2021, the Archives made a request for the missing records “and continued to make requests until approximately the end of December 2021,” when it was informed that 12 boxes had been found and were ready to be retrieved by the club.
The affidavit makes clear that the Justice Department’s criminal investigation is not just about the improper removal and storage of classified information in unauthorized locations and the possible illegal concealment or removal of government records, but says investigators had “probable cause to believe that evidence obstruction”. will be found in their search.
Trump’s lawyer, in a letter included in the release, had argued to the Justice Department that presidents have “absolute” power to declassify documents, claiming his “constitutional authority to classify and declassify documents is unlimited.” Trump did not provide evidence that the documents at Mar-a-Lago were declassified before he left Washington.
TRUMP SAYS HE DID NOTHING WRONG
Trump has long insisted, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that he cooperated fully with government officials and had every right to have the documents on the ground. On his social media site, he responded to the unsealing by continuing to vilify law enforcement.
He called it “total PR sabotage by the FBI and DOJ” and said “WE GAVE THEM A LOT.” In another post, he offered just two words: “WITCH HUNT!!!”
In an interview on Lou Dobbs’ “The Great America Show” Thursday, he said he did nothing wrong.
“This is a political attack on our country and it’s a shame,” he added. “Its a shame”.
Colvin reported from New York. Associated Press writers Mike Balsamo, Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.