Criminal Justice

Trump search-warrant affidavit, released on judge's orders, cites sensitive documents, possible obstruction

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AP Trump Mar-a-Lago

The entrance to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is shown Aug. 8 in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump said in a lengthy statement the FBI had conducted a search of his Mar-a-Lago estate and asserted that agents had broke open a safe. Photo by Terry Renna/The Associated Press.

Updated: Federal agents sought to search former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, after he turned over 15 boxes of documents in January that included “highly classified documents intermingled with other records,” according to a redacted affidavit released Friday based on a judge’s orders.

There were 184 documents with classification markings, including 67 marked “Confidential,” 92 marked “Secret” and 25 marked “Top Secret,” the affidavit said.

Other markings were for the types of documents that typically contain “national defense information” that can’t be released to foreign governments, according to the affidavit. Several of the documents contained Trump’s handwritten notes.

After its review of the boxes, the National Archives and Records Administration sent a criminal referral to the U.S. Department of Justice. The FBI then opened a criminal investigation to determine how the classified documents were removed from the White House, how they came to be stored at Mar-a-Lago, and whether other documents remained there or elsewhere, the affidavit said.

The affidavit said there is probable cause to think that additional documents containing classified national defense information remained at Mar-a-Lago and probable cause to think that evidence of obstruction would be found there.

Publications with articles on the affidavit include Politico, CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart of Florida had ordered the release of a redacted version of the affidavit on Thursday. The affidavit was used to justify the Aug. 8 search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.

Reinhart ruled soon after the DOJ submitted proposed redactions. The New York Times, the Washington Post and had coverage of Reinhart’s decision.

Several news organizations had sought release of the affidavit.

Reinhart previously unsealed the search warrant for the FBI search and a receipt showing the property taken. Among the documents seized were “Miscellaneous Top Secret Documents” and “Info Re: President of France.”

U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland had sought release of the search warrant and property receipt but not the affidavit.

In his Aug. 25 order, Reinhart said the government had shown that its proposed redactions were narrowly tailored to protect the investigation’s integrity. The government, he said, demonstrated a compelling interest in sealing parts of the affidavit that would reveal:

    • The identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents and uncharged parties.

    • The investigation’s scope, direction, methods, sources and strategy.

    • Protected grand jury information.

See also: “Trump requests special master for review of documents seized by FBI” “Judge who signed Trump search warrant is targeted; critics seek ‘judgment of God’” “Could Trump be banned from office if he’s convicted of taking government documents?”

The Washington Post: “FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search followed months of resistance, delay by Trump”

Updated Aug. 26 at 12:35 p.m. to include information from the affidavit.

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