A federal judge in Florida just released a heavily redacted affidavit supporting the FBI’s search this month at Mar-a-Lago.
The document confirms that federal law enforcement is investigating former President Trump’s possession of highly classified documents and presidential records, and possible obstruction. Under the Presidential Records Act, all documents must remain in federal custody regardless of classification level.
“There is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at the PREMISES,” the filing reads.
The filing, made by an unnamed FBI agent trained in “counterintelligence and espionage,” says agents suspected Trump of withholding intelligence related to signal gathering, human sources and other top-secret written information.
That suspicion arose from the 15 boxes that Trump returned to the archives in January, the affidavit says. Agents discovered 184 “unique documents with classification marks, including 67 documents marked CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked SECRET, and 25 documents marked TOP SECRET,” according to the affidavit.
That included markings that reference human sources, FISA, records that must be kept out of the reach of foreign nationals, and signals intelligence.
“Several of the documents also contained what appear to be handwritten notes from FPOTUS,” the filing read. FPOTUS refers to “Former President of the United States”.
The DOJ laid out some important points about the investigation in the affidavit and a memorandum supporting the redactions. Is it so:
- Redactions were necessary “to protect the safety of several civilian witnesses whose information was included in the affidavit”
- Agents are investigating possible obstruction of justice, violations of the Presidential Records Act, illegal possession of national defense information, and damage to government records.
- Suggestions that agents have evidence of obstruction permeate the documents, and prosecutors say they have “well-founded concerns that steps may be taken to thwart or interfere with this investigation if the facts in the affidavit were revealed prematurely.”
Trump’s decision to seize a large number of White House records at the end of his administration, prompting another criminal investigation into him and those around him, is unprecedented in US history.
Public records and statements show that the National Archives spent more than a year since Trump’s departure in January 2021 trying unsuccessfully to regain control of the records, all of which, under federal law, should have remained in custody. from the government, regardless of their classification. Trump refused and only handed over the 15 boxes, not a complete set of records he had hidden, in January 2022.
After NARA officials discovered classified information in those boxes, they referred the matter to the FBI. The affidavit cited a June 8 letter from federal prosecutors to Trump’s attorneys, demanding that they preserve the records still at Mar-a-Lago.
“As I indicated to you earlier, Mar-a-Lago does not include a licensed secure location for the storage of classified information. As such, it appears that from the time the classified documents were removed from the White House secure facility and moved to Mar-a-Lago around January 20, 2021, they have not been properly handled or stored in an appropriate location,” reads an excerpt from the letter included in the affidavit. “Accordingly, we ask that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents were stored be secured and that all boxes that were moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) be kept in said room in its current state until further notice.”
The released portions of the affidavit specify where in Mar-a-Lago the search would take place and which agents were to search.
Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart approved a search of the Mar-a-Lago warehouse, Trump’s “residential suite,” an area called Pine Hall, and another location referred to only as “Office 45,” along with any another place in the club next to the beach and the house. that “they are not currently authorized places for the storage of classified information or NDI”.
There, agents were to search four categories of records: any document or box showing classification marks, any information or communication about the movement of classified or national defense information, any presidential records from Trump’s term, and any evidence of alteration or destruction. of presidential records.
It is a striking example of both Trump’s intransigence and the lengths to which the government was forced to go to investigate and retrieve the records. The raid at Mar-a-Lago was the first search of a former president’s residence in a criminal matter.
And after years of investigations into Trump and his inner circle, this investigation may already have come closer to brushing against the Donald.
The affidavit, though heavily redacted, offers snippets of the government’s timeline of the case.
One remaining mystery in the matter has been how, exactly, Trump passed on the White House records to Mar-a-Lago. A paragraph in the affidavit, under a subheading titled “Boxes Containing White House Documents Were Transported to Mar-a-Lago,” cites a CBS Miami article from January 2021.
That story was titled “Moving Trucks Seen at Mar-a-Lago” and allegedly described two moving trucks at the club on January 18, 2021.
NARA applied for presidential records on May 6, 2021, but didn’t get any until much, much later.
Fast-forward to February 2022, when the National Archives, after a year of trying, finally received a batch of Trump records, in the form of 15 boxes of documents and other items.
On February 9, the affidavit reads, a NARA official emailed the Justice Department saying he had found “many classified records” in the boxes, noting that “highly classified records were disclosed, mixed with other records and otherwise inappropriately”. [sic] identified.”
The FBI opened an investigation in February based on the referral.
As things heated up, Trump’s attorney, Evan Corcoran, sent a letter to Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt on May 25, demanding that it be included in any government motion before a judge regarding to the case.
The letter, included by the Justice Department as an attachment to the affidavit, notes that “public confidence in government is low.”
“President Donald J. Trump is a leader of the Republican Party,” the letter says. “The Department of Justice (DOJ), as part of the Executive Branch, is under the control of a President from the opposite party. It is critical, given that dynamic, that everything possible be done to ensure that DOJ actions that may affect the former president or his close associates do not involve politics.”
Corcoran makes the same point in several other ways in the letter, but says explicitly that Trump will treat any overt move in the investigation as political.
But for Trump, who spent four years effectively immune from federal prosecution, who argued that he was also immune from criminal and congressional investigation, and who ran the country’s federal law enforcement apparatus for his own purposes, it is as much a reflection of the power that he is turned away from him, as he is an example of the type of threat he is willing to make.
Bratt, the counterintelligence officer, complied with Corcoran’s request and included the letter in the search warrant application. He had no influence on Judge Reinhart, who spent the weeks after the search harassed by Trump supporters.
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