Details in an affidavit and related memo, nearly three weeks after the Aug. 8 search, underscore the high stakes and unprecedented nature of an ongoing criminal investigation into whether Trump and his aides took government documents. secrets and refused to return all the material. – even in the face of repeated requests from senior law enforcement officials.
The affidavit suggests that if some of the classified documents returned from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives in January had fallen into the wrong hands, they could have revealed sensitive details about human intelligence sources, or how agencies spyware intercept electronic communications from foreign targets.
“There are also probable reasons to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found,” the affidavit states.
Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart read the affidavit and approved the search on August 5. Three days later, FBI agents dressed in polo shirts and khakis executed the search warrant at the Palm Beach estate, taking another 20 boxes of items from a bedroom, office and a storage room on the first floor, according to an inventory of what was salvaged from the property that was made public earlier this month.
These boxes contained 11 sets of classified documents, according to the inventory.
The warrant authorizing the search said officers were looking for all “physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, proceeds of crime or other unlawfully possessed items in violation of three potential crimes”, including a portion of the Espionage Act prohibiting the collection, transmission or loss of national defense information. The warrant also cites the destruction of records and the concealment or mutilation of government material.
Of the 38 pages in the affidavit, almost half are completely or largely redacted. In a statement after the document was unsealed, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said, “This is a gross travesty, and what is not redacted only further supports President Trump’s position. , there was NO reason for a raid – it’s politics!”
Affidavits are detailed documents about an investigation that law enforcement officers submit to judges in the hope that they will approve their requests for search warrants. The sworn document typically contains key information about witnesses, why officers believe evidence of a crime may be found on a certain property or device, and investigative steps taken prior to a search.
It is unusual to make the details of such an affidavit public, especially in an ongoing investigation. But numerous media outlets and other parties have called for the document not to be sealed, citing extreme public interest in the case involving a former president who could run again in 2024.
Reinhart granted the request to unseal the affidavit, but allowed the Justice Department to offer redactions of information that government officials believe could compromise the investigation or the safety of witnesses.
The affidavit says federal agents sought permission to conduct the search after examining the contents of 15 boxes that Trump returned to the National Archives earlier this year and found documents found with classification marks. Some were labeled “HCS,” a category of highly classified government information; others concerned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and documents intended not to be shared with foreign countries. The acronym “HCS” stands for “HUMINT Control Systems” and refers to government systems used to protect information collected from covert human sources, the affidavit states.
In total, these boxes contained 184 unique documents bearing classification marks, according to the affidavit. Some of the documents, according to the affidavit, include what appear to be handwritten notes from Trump. Twenty-five of them were marked top secret, while 92 were marked with the lower classification of “secret”; 67 have been marked “confidential”, the lowest level of classification.
The affidavit also includes a May 25 letter from Trump’s attorney, Evan Corcoran, to the Justice Department defending the president’s conduct by claiming that Trump held ultimate classification authority in government. In the letter, Corcoran insisted its client cooperated with the investigation and complained about leaks. Criminalizing Trump’s conduct on classified documents, Corcoran argued, “would involve serious constitutional issues of the separation of powers.” The attorney requested that any request to a judge or grand jury regarding the investigation include the letter defending Trump.
A separate, partially redacted document, which was also unsealed on Friday, describes why prosecutors withheld significant parts of the affidavit and shows that a large number of people provided information to the FBI about the classified documents retained. at Mar-a-Lago. .
The memo states that the redactions to the affidavit were necessary to “protect the safety and privacy of a significant number of civilian witnesses, in addition to law enforcement personnel, as well as to protect the integrity of ongoing investigation and to avoid grand jury disclosure”. Material.”
The search has intensified Trump’s longstanding animosity toward the Justice Department and the FBI. Emails, documents and interviews show that he followed by the months of conflict between the former president and law enforcement agencies to release the documents — which are protected under the Presidential Archives Act — into the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Some of the documents recovered in the search are considered extremely sensitive, two people familiar with the search said, and could reveal carefully guarded secrets about US intelligence-gathering methods. One of the people said the information is “among the most sensitive secrets we hold”.
Like others interviewed about the research, the two spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details that have not been made public.
This is a developing story. It will be updated.