Affidavit says over 180 classified docs removed by National Archives from Mar-a-Lago
Updated August 26, 2022 at 2:09 PM ET
The affidavit that the FBI used to get a warrant for searching former President Donald Trump's home at Mar-a-Lago is now public. A redacted version of the document was released by a federal court this afternoon.
Of the 32 pages in the affidavit from an FBI special agent with expertise in counterintelligence and espionage investigations, nearly half were covered in thick black lines masking information that had demonstrated to a federal judge the need to search Trump's Florida property. Eight pages of exhibits and supplementary information were also released, which were not redacted.
"Probable cause exists to believe that evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed" was being improperly stored in various places at Mar-a-Lago, the affidavit states.
According to the affidavit, 184 classified documents, including 25 marked "Top Secret," were found among 15 boxes that the National Archives had obtained from Mar-a-Lago earlier in the year, as well as others denoted with labels indicating they contained national security information, such as "FISA." Some of those documents were intermixed with other files, loose and unlabeled, which prompted the Archives to refer the case to the Justice Department.
As the department worked with Trump and his attorneys, it became concerned about the nature of other records at the property, and that they were no adequately protected or stored. The Justice Department also grew concerned about misleading public statements from Trump and a former administration official about the materials that the Archives had recovered, the affidavit shows.
Shortly after the affidavit was released on Friday, Trump made an emotional statement on his Truth Social media account, referring to the search as "the Break-In of my home."
He also said federal law enforcement was carrying out "a total public relations subterfuge," without providing explanation, and declared "WE GAVE THEM MUCH" when he described his voluntary turning over of some of the materials improperly kept at Mar-a-Lago.
Since the search was executed on Aug. 8, threats of violence toward the FBI have increased. Anticipating the potential for violence from Trump supporters, the agent in the affidavit asked for it to be sealed.
"I believe that sealing this document is necessary because the items and information to be seized are relevant to an ongoing investigation and the FBI has not yet identified all potential criminal confederates nor located all evidence related to its investigation," the unidentified agent wrote in the affidavit. "Premature disclosure of the contents of this affidavit and related documents may have a significant and negative impact on the continuing investigation and may severely jeopardize its effectiveness by allowing criminal parties an opportunity to flee, destroy evidence (stored electronically and otherwise), change patterns of behavior, and notify criminal confederates."
The country's main court filing system, known as PACER, was unable to handle the downloading demand for the document, which pushed the release until after the court-mandated deadline of noon.
Media organizations went to court to demand that the public be able see the affidavit laying out the reasons and research for the unprecedented search. The Justice Department then countered that it contains information that could compromise ongoing investigations as well as the safety of federal employees.
Judge Bruce Reinhart last week ordered the department to provide him with a redacted version to consider for release. On Thursday he said the government had made its case that disclosing all of the affidavit would reveal witnesses, the investigation's strategy, its scope and grand jury information and there was reason to keep much of it under wraps for now. But he said that the government's proposed redactions were tailored narrowly enough to protect the integrity of the investigation and provided "the least onerous alternative" to keeping the entire document sealed.
The affidavit also explains the work of a "Privilege Review Team" to identify and segregate documents that may be shielded by attorney-client privilege. Still, Trump has asked a different judge to halt the FBI review of the Mar-a-Lago documents and appoint a neutral special master. That judge has given him a deadline, also on Friday, to resubmit his request outlining and clarifying jurisdiction and legal points made in his first request.
At the request of Trump's lawyers, the FBI attached a letter where the lawyers stated that Trump "readily and voluntarily" agreed to give the Archives documents it had requested, and made the argument that the criminal statute on classified materials does not apply to presidents or former presidents, essentially saying that Trump could not break the law. They also restate Trump's point of view that a president has absolute authority to declassify documents.
This story will be updated.
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