The Justice Department 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 found probable cause that crimes had been committed.
Despite the redactions, the affidavit includes many new details and clues as to why the FBI and National Archives were concerned about “many classified records” mixed in with other things at Trump’s home, which is also a private club and resort. .
The first wording 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 does not specifically name former President Donald Trump as the target, and that the National Archives referred the potentially illegal activity after recovering 15 boxes of documents, which interspersed classified documents with others. stuff. of Trump in January.
The affidavit is redacted to protect witness identities, details about a federal grand jury, and to hide details about the ongoing investigation. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ruled that the redactions were “strictly designed to serve the government’s legitimate interest in the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”
The FBI was initially investigating the 15 boxes that Trump has already delivered. They wanted to know how those boxes got to Mar-a-Lago, if the classified documents were improperly stored, and if these documents were seen by people who shouldn’t have seen classified information.
The FBI agent who signed the affidavit **** cites experience and training in counterintelligence and espionage investigations and in the use and storage of confidential information.
What is not clear is what led the FBI to believe there were additional documents at Mar-a-Lago. CNN has reported that at some point the DOJ became suspicious the Trump team was not being truthful and a the witness came forward.
The agent says that this affidavit is not exhaustive of the facts known to the FBI. He simply establishes probable cause for the search. Nor, on the contrary, does it allege a crime against Trump or anyone else. This is common boilerplate language often found in FBI affidavits.
Read US Code 18 § 793 here. It is about “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information”.
The information classification system as sensitive or classified is not provided for in the law. Rather, the rules are spelled out in a presidential executive order. The most recent update came during the Obama administration, with Executive Order 13526. read them.
This page describes some of the different classifications of information. Although we get very little information about the specific nature of the classified documents Trump had, we can infer from the inclusion of these definitions that the documents at Mar-a-Lago ranged from Top Secret, requiring special storage, to even more restrictive documents. subclassifications that required special access.
CNN’s Katie Bo Lillis presented the various rankings here.
HUMINT involves human intelligence, and the disclosure of identities could put sources providing information to the US in foreign countries at risk.
NOFORN is an important designation because it means information that should not be released to foreign governments or individuals without the approval of the agency that developed or obtained the intelligence.
Here we learn the sections of federal law and regulations that 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 regulations of the National Archives related to the management of classified national security information.
But the affidavit also cites Title 18 of the US Code, that’s federal law. 18 US § 1519 deals with the “destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations and bankruptcies”. read them.
18 US Code § 2071 deals with the “general concealment, removal, or mutilation” of federal documents or property. read them.
The PRA is the Presidential Records Act, passed by Congress following Richard Nixon’s failed attempt to remove presidential documents from the White House after Watergate. For an explanation of why the American public, and not the former president, owns Trump’s presidential documents, click here.
Much of what we have learned about this case, including early news of the search itself, comes from Trump’s own statements or revelations from his allies.
We’re getting into a lot of newsrooms here.
Here it is that CBS affiliate report. Remember, this is two days before President Joe Biden took office. Footage of moving trucks at Mar-a-Lago was captured by news helicopters monitoring Trump’s future permanent address.
Items 24-37 of the affidavit establish probable cause. From this page, we change to “Provision of the Fifteen Boxes to NARA”.
An important date here. By early May 2021, a few months after Trump left office, 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 to be collected in Mar-a-Lago. See a full timeline of what we know.
After the release of the affidavit, Trump answered on Truth Social, calling it “a total public relations subterfuge by the FBI and Department of Justice.”
This is important. The FBI identified 184 classified documents in the 15 boxes delivered by Trump to the Archives. These included 92 documents classified SECRET and 25 documents classified TOP SECRET.
The documents have additional markings, such as NOFORN, as well as Trump’s handwritten notes.
“Based on my training and experience, I know that documents classified at these levels often contain” national defense information, the affidavit says.
We have entered a new portion of the affidavit, which describes that there was classified information in the 15 boxes of presidential records that Trump released to the Archives in January 2022.
The Justice Department left unredacted Trump’s claim, through his lawyers, that he might issue some kind of blanket declassification order. It also outlines a claim by Kash Patel, a former Trump national security aide who was named as one of Trump’s appointees to the National Archives in June.
CNN’s Jeremy Herb indicated: The investigator who wrote the affidavit cited a Article from the right-wing website Breitbart, in which Patel claimed that reports that the National Archives found classified material at Mar-a-Lago were “misleading” because Trump had declassified the materials.
However, the rest of the affidavit section is classified, so it’s unclear why federal investigators cited Patel’s comments.
Since the FBI search, Trump has pointed to a January 19, 2021 memo in which he declassified documents related to the FBI’s Russia investigation. However, there is no evidence that those materials were what the FBI was looking for when it searched Mar-a-Lago earlier this month.
Most important clues.
A DOJ attorney says the documents in the 15 boxes were removed from a secure facility at the White House on January 20, 2021, the day Trump left office.
The attorney specifically told Trump’s attorneys that the documents were not handled properly and asks Trump’s attorney to secure and preserve the room at Mar-a-Lago where the 15 boxes were stored.
At the very least, we know that Trump’s lawyers saw the Justice Department’s request.
The DOJ has drafted its arguments establishing probable cause for the August search at Mar-a-Lago. CNN’s Marshall Cohen, Tierney Sneed and Jeremy Herb reported that in a legal brief also made public Friday, prosecutors wrote that these details had to be redacted because they would provide a “road map” for the investigation and that disclosing “this information could therefore have adverse effects. affect the government’s search for relevant evidence. read more here.
Here are some new details. The FBI was looking for 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 it is an image of Pine Hall from the Library of Congress. It is described as “antechamber to the owner’s suite”.
The FBI took pains to make it clear that members of the Mar-a-Lago club would not be disturbed by the search.
The conclusion calls for a search warrant, which was granted and then kept under seal. Read key lines from that 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 planned to search the storage room. A second team, the Privileges Review Team, searched Trump’s office and sought to separate any documents with information that could be considered “attorney-client privilege” and keep them away from the Case Team.
Earlier this week, Trump’s legal team requested a “special master” to review the materials that were recovered under the search warrant. His application is still pending.
The affidavit was filed on August 5, a Friday. The search was carried out on 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 submitted the documents, which may be an oversimplification.
Trump’s attorney argued that the president has broad “unrestricted” authority to declassify documents, and that neither current nor former presidents can be prosecuted with respect to classified documents. That is the heart of Trump’s defense so far.
Trump’s attorney demanded that his letter arguing that Trump had the “unrestricted” ability to declassify documents be submitted to any judge considering the matter. In that request, the FBI complied.
Here’s a description of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s sprawling 58-bedroom estate in Florida. The FBI promised that the search, according to the affidavit, would not extend beyond areas used by Trump.
The first thing the FBI wanted to do was seize the classified documents and the boxes or containers that contained them. The last was any evidence of “conscious alteration, destruction or concealment” of the records.