A federal judge has unsealed a redacted version of the affidavit that was used to substantiate the search warrant executed earlier this month at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.
Documents that have been made public so far show that the FBI affidavit was 38 pages long and at least 78 paragraphs long. It is heavily redacted – 11 pages are completely blacked out, 13 are partially redacted, and 14 have no redactions.
The affidavit says there was “probable cause” that evidence of the obstruction would be found at Mar-a-Lago’s premises. It also states that “there is probable cause to believe that evidence, contraband, proceeds of crime, or other items unlawfully possessed in violation of 18 USC §§ 793(e), 2071, or 1519 will be found in the locals, the residents.”
The redacted affidavit also states that the FBI investigation “established that documents bearing classification marks, which appear to contain National Defense Information (NDI), were among the materials contained in FIFTEEN BOXES and were stored in the PREMISES in an undisclosed location.”
“A preliminary sorting of documents with classification marks revealed the following approximate numbers: 184 unique documents with classification marks, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET,” the report said. affidavit.
According to the redacted affidavit, 14 of 15 boxes recovered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in January 2022 contained classified documents. In mid-May, the FBI, during a “preliminary examination” of the documents, observed certain documents marked “HCS” – HUMINT Control System – which, according to the affidavit, is “an SCI control system designed to protect intelligence information from clandestine human sources.”
The affidavit also noted that “several of the documents also contained what appeared to be [Trump’s] handwritten notes.”
The government, in asking the court to seal the affidavit, said it believed it was necessary “because the items and information to be seized are relevant to an ongoing investigation and the FBI has not yet identified all of the potential criminal accomplices nor located any evidence related to his investigation.”
The FBI also expressed concern that the premature disclosure of the affidavit and related documents would “have a significant and negative impact on the continuation of the investigation and seriously impair its effectiveness by allowing the criminal parties to flee, destroy evidence (electronically stored and otherwise), change behavior patterns and notify accomplices in crime.”
Trump responded to the post on his Truth Social social media platform. “Heavily redacted affidavit,” he wrote. Trump had requested the release of a full, unredacted version of the affidavit, but the Justice Department had argued that the FBI’s investigative methods and the identities of the officers involved could be compromised.
“Nothing is mentioned about ‘Nuclear,’ a total public relations subterfuge by the FBI and DOJ, or our close working relationship regarding the rotation of documents – WE GAVE THEM A LOT,” Trump continued, referring to what its representatives returned to the National Archives.
The affidavit also refers to aof January 2021 entitled “Moving trucks spotted in Mar-a-Lago”. The rest of the information about this incident is heavily redacted.
Last week, the federal magistrate judgeordered the Justice Department to provide him with proposed redactions to the affidavit — which likely includes witness statements and specific allegations — after media organizations including CBS News pushed for its public release. Reinhart said Thursday that the government had fulfilled its obligations to justify the redactions.
The FBI searched Trump’s primary residence in Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 as part of an investigation into his handling of presidential records since leaving office. On August 12, theas well as an inventory of seized materials, which lists 11 sets of classified documents.
Mar-a-Lago’s search warrant was approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland and then by Reinhart on August 5. Reinhart, an investigative judge at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, reviewed the affidavit and its references to investigative evidence, saying last week that “all of the information relied upon by the court is in in the affidavit”.
The Justice Department had argued that the affidavit should remain sealed, citing the need to “protect the integrity of an ongoing police investigation that involves national security.” Investigative methods and the identities of FBI agents and witnesses are at stake, prosecutors told the judge, and said releasing the affidavit risked chilling future cooperation.
Media organizations had argued that it was necessary to unseal at least parts of the affidavit to help the public understand the Justice Department’s reasons for the search.
Earlier this week,before a different judge for the appointment of a special master to be appointed to examine the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago. They argued that a special master — a court-appointed monitor — is needed to protect the former president’s constitutional rights.
Trump’s lawyers have also asked the Justice Department to provide them with a more detailed account of what the FBI took from his Florida compound and to return any property outside the scope of the law. ..
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) received 15 boxes of presidential documents from Mar-a-Lago in January. NARA identified more than 100 documents with classification marks — including some identified as Top Secret and protected by sensitive special access programs — after its initial review of those boxes, according to a May letter sent by the archivist by Acting Archives to counsel for the former president.
The White House declined to comment on the details of the affidavit.
“We understand again, we understand the point of this,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Friday’s press briefing. “We are not going to comment on any underlying documents, any content related to an ongoing investigation. This is an independent investigation, a forensic investigation, which the Department of Justice has the independence to conduct. And we do not think it appropriate for us to comment.”
Here is the redacted affidavit:
– This is a developing story.
Robert Legare, Gillian Morley, Andres Triay and Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.