FBI Expected to Find Evidence of Trump Crimes
- DOJ on Friday unveiled a heavily-redacted version of an FBI affidavit supporting the search of Mar-a-Lago.
- News organizations pushed for the release of the affidavit underpinning the search warrant.
- A judge took the extraordinary step of ordering the document’s release after signing off on redactions.
The Justice Department on Friday released a redacted version of the affidavit laying out the reasons why the FBI sought a search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in South Florida, revealing new details about the unprecedented raid.
The public version of the affidavit was heavily redacted, or blacked out, to hide sensitive details about the investigation into Trump’s handling of government records.
But the 38-page court filing otherwise shed additional light on the FBI’s suspicions that other sensitive documents remained at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach even after the former president returned more than 15 boxes of documents to the National Archives in January.
“There is probable cause to believe that additional documents that contain classified [national defense information] or that are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at the premises,” an FBI agent wrote, referring to Mar-a-Lago. “There is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at the premises.”
The Justice Department blacked out the name of the FBI agent who signed the affidavit. Throughout the filing, the agent referred to Trump by the acronym “FPOTUS” — former president of the United States.
In a separate filing, the Justice Department said that redaction and others were needed to protect law enforcement personnel who have faced threats in the aftermath of the August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago.
After executing the warrant on August 8, the feds seized more than two dozen boxes of government records, including some that were highly classified and marked top-secret. Months before the search, in January, Trump turned over 15 boxes of records to the National Archives, but the FBI came to believe there was more to be found at Mar-a-Lago.
In the newly-unsealed affidavit, the FBI provided a breakdown of what agents found in the 15 boxes. During a preliminary review, between May 16 and May 18, the FBI “identified documents with classification markings” in 14 of the 15 boxes, the agent wrote.
The records included “184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET,” the agent wrote.
“Several of the documents also contained what appears to be FPOTUS ‘s handwritten notes,” the agent added.
In response to the newly-unsealed filing, Trump suggested that the federal judge who approved the search warrant should have recused himself. But Trump and his lawyers have made no effort since the August 8 search to seek the recusal of Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart as he has considered requests to unseal records related to the Mar-a-Lago search.
“Affidavit heavily redacted!!!” Trump wrote on social media, adding that the public version of the affidavit included no mention of his “close working relationship” with the government “regarding document turnover.
“WE GAVE THEM MUCH,” he wrote. “Judge Bruce Reinhart should NEVER have allowed the Break-in of my home.”
The affidavit’s unsealing came a day after Reinhart ordered the public release of the affidavit, albeit with significant portions blacked-out to conceal the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents, and other sensitive details about the investigation into Trump’s handling of government records.
In a brief order Thursday, Reinhart endorsed the Justice Department’s proposed redactions after determining that they were “narrowly tailored to serve the government’s legitimate interest in the integrity of the ongoing investigation and are the least onerous alternative to sealing the entire affidavit.”
The release of the affidavit itself was extraordinary and came weeks after the FBI took the unprecedented step of searching a former president’s private residence. Typically, an affidavit only becomes public in the event that federal prosecutors bring charges, which hasn’t happened in this case.
But the raid of Trump’s home has drawn intense public interest and prompted media organizations and transparency groups to call for the release of all records related to the search. At the request of the Justice Department, and with no objection from Trump, Reinhart previously ordered the release of the search warrant and the inventory of items the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago.
The unsealed warrant revealed that the Justice Department is investigating if Trump violated three federal laws, including the Espionage Act, when he refused to return government documents that were moved to his Florida residence after he left office.
At a court hearing last week, a top Justice Department advocated for keeping the affidavit under seal, arguing that its public release could undermine the inquiry into Trump’s handling of the records.
But Reinhart said he was inclined to unseal parts of the affidavit.