The Justice Department has released a version of the document it used to convince a judge to issue a warrant to seize documents from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. The affidavit, which a judge ordered the Justice Department to release, explains why the FBI believed there was probable cause that crimes had been committed.
Despite the redactions, the affidavit includes many new details and clues as to why the FBI and the National Archives were concerned about “lots of classified documents” mixed in with other things at Trump, who is also a club and a private complex.
The first redaction of the document, on the first page, is the name of the FBI agent who wrote and signed this 32-page affidavit.
We also definitely see that the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation, although it doesn’t specifically name former President Donald Trump as a target, and that the National Archives dismissed the potentially illegal activity after recovering 15 boxes of documents, which mixed classified documents with other things. of Trump in January.
The affidavit is redacted to protect the identity of witnesses, details about a federal grand jury, and to hide details of the ongoing investigation. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ruled that the redactions were “narrowly tailored to serve the government’s legitimate interest in the integrity of the ongoing investigation”.
The FBI was initially investigating the 15 boxes already returned by Trump. They wanted to know how these boxes arrived at Mar-a-Lago, if any classified documents were improperly stored, and if people who should not have seen classified information had seen these documents.
The FBI agent who signed the affidavit **** cites experience and training in counterintelligence and espionage investigations and the use and storage of sensitive information.
What is unclear is what led the FBI to believe that there were additional documents at Mar-a-Lago. CNN reported that at some point the DOJ began to suspect the Trump team was not being truthful and a witness came forward.
The agent says this affidavit is not exhaustive of the facts known to the FBI. It simply establishes the probable cause of the search. Conversely, he also does not allege a crime against Trump or anyone else. This is common boilerplate language often found in FBI affidavits.
Read 18 US Code § 793 here. It concerns “the collection, transmission or loss of defense information”.
The system of classifying information as sensitive or classified is not provided by law. Rather, the rules are set out in a presidential decree. The most recent update came during the Obama administration, with Executive Order 13526. Read it.
This page describes some of the different classifications of information. Even though we get very little information about the specific nature of the classified documents that Trump possessed, we can infer from the inclusion of these definitions that the Mar-a-Lago documents ranged from Top Secret – requiring special storage – to even more restrictive documents. sub-classifications requiring special access.
CNN’s Katie Bo Lillis discussed the different classifications here.
HUMINT involves human intelligence, and disclosing identities could endanger sources who provide information to the United States in foreign countries.
NOFORN is an important designation because it signifies information that is not intended to be given to foreign governments or individuals without the consent of the agency that developed or obtained the information.
Here we learn which sections of federal law and regulations may have been violated.
The Code of Federal Regulations – or CFR – is published annually by federal agencies. 32 CFR Parts 2001 and 2003 are Federal National Archives regulations regarding the handling of classified national security information.
But the affidavit also cites Title 18 of the US Code – that’s federal law. 18 US § 1519 concerns the “destruction, alteration or falsification of documents in federal investigations and bankruptcy”. Read it.
18 US Code § 2071 has to do with the “general concealment, removal, or mutilation” of federal documents or property. Read it.
The PRA is the Presidential Records Act, passed by Congress following Richard Nixon’s failed attempt to take presidential records out of the White House with him after Watergate. For an explanation of why the American public, and not the former president, has Trump’s presidential documents, click here.
Much of what we’ve learned about this case, including early news from the research itself, comes either from Trump’s own statements or from revelations from his allies.
We are going strongly into the redactions here.
Here is that CBS affiliate report. Remember, it’s two days before President Joe Biden takes office. Footage of moving trucks at Mar-a-Lago was captured by news helicopters monitoring Trump’s future permanent address.
Items 24 to 37 of the affidavit establish probable cause. From this page we move on to “Supply of the Fifteen Boxes to NARA”.
An important date here. In early May 2021, a few months after Trump’s departure, the Archives had already established that documents covered by the Presidential Records Act were missing and were told that 12 boxes had been “found” and were ready for recovery. at Mar-a-Lac. See a full timeline of what we know.
After the affidavit was released, Trump responded on Truth Social, calling it “total FBI and DOJ public relations subterfuge.”
It is important. The FBI has identified 184 classified documents in the 15 boxes given by Trump to the Archives. These included 92 documents classified SECRET and 25 documents classified TOP SECRET.
The documents bear additional markings, such as NOFORN, as well as handwritten notes from Trump.
“Based on my training and experience, I know that documents classified at these levels typically contain” national defense information, the affidavit states.
We have seized a new portion of the affidavit, which indicates that there was classified information in the 15 boxes of presidential records that Trump turned over to the Archives in January 2022.
The Justice Department has not redacted Trump’s claim, through his lawyers, that he could issue some sort of blanket declassification order. It also outlines a claim by Kash Patel, a former national security aide to Trump who was named one of Trump’s delegates to the National Archives in June.
CNN’s Jeremy Herb noted: The investigator who wrote the affidavit cited a May article from the right-wing website Breitbart, in which Patel claimed that reports that the National Archives had found classified documents at Mar- a-Lago were “misleading” because Trump had declassified the documents. .
The rest of the affidavit section, however, is classified, so it’s unclear why federal investigators cited Patel’s comments.
Since the FBI search, Trump has pointed to a Jan. 19, 2021, memo in which he declassified documents related to the FBI’s Russia investigation. There is no evidence, however, that these materials were what the FBI was looking for when it searched Mar-a-Lago earlier this month.
More important clues.
A DOJ attorney said the documents in the 15 boxes were removed from a secure facility at the White House on Jan. 20, 2021, the day Trump left office.
The lawyer specifically told Trump’s lawyers that the documents were not handled appropriately and asks Trump’s lawyer to secure and preserve the Mar-a-Lago room where the 15 boxes had been stored. .
At least we know Trump’s attorneys saw the DOJ’s request.
The DOJ has redacted its arguments outlining probable cause for the August raid at Mar-a-Lago. CNN’s Marshall Cohen, Tierney Sneed and Jeremy Herb reported that in a legal brief also released Friday, prosecutors wrote that those details needed to be redacted because they would provide a “road map” for the investigation and that revealing “this information could therefore adversely affect the government’s search for relevant evidence. » Read more here.
Here are some new details. The FBI envisioned more than a storage room and Trump’s “Office 45”. They also focused on his “residential suite” and a room identified as Pine Hall. Here is a photo of Pine Hall from the Library of Congress. It is described as “the antechamber to the owner’s suite”.
The FBI was careful to make it clear that members of the Mar-a-Lago club would not mind the search.
The finding calls for a search warrant, which was granted and then kept under seal. Read the key lines of this document here.
Two teams of agents were sent to Mar-a-Lago. The case team was the main group of agents on the case and they were planning to search the storage room. A second team, the Privilege Review Team, searched Trump’s office and sought to segregate any documents containing information that could be considered “privileged attorney-client” and keep them out of the public eye. case team.
Earlier this week, Trump’s legal team asked a “special master” to review documents recovered as part of the search warrant. Their request is still pending.
The affidavit was filed on August 5, a Friday. The search was carried out the following Monday, August 8.
This May letter from Trump’s attorney complained that there had been public reports of the DOJ’s investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents. He argued that he voluntarily handed over documents, which may be an oversimplification.
Trump’s lawyer argued that the president has “unfettered” power to declassify documents – and that neither presidents nor former presidents can be sued over classified documents. This is the heart of Trump’s defense so far.
Trump’s attorney demanded that his letter claiming Trump had the “unfettered” ability to declassify documents be presented to any judge hearing the case. On this request, the FBI complied.
Here’s a description of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s sprawling 58-room estate in Florida. The FBI promised that the search, according to the affidavit, would not extend beyond the areas used by Trump.
The first thing the FBI wanted to do was seize all classified documents and the boxes or containers that contained them. The last was any evidence of “knowledge of the alteration, destruction or concealment” of documents.