On Friday, the affidavit for a search warrant that resulted in the FBI raid of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence was released to the public in a heavily redacted form.
"The government is conducting a criminal investigation concerning the improper removal and storage of classified information in unauthorized spaces, as well as the unlawful concealment or removal of government records," the affidavit begins.
The affidavit contains heavy redactions, with nearly half of the document being blacked out.
The affidavit states that the investigation began as a result of a referral the United States National Archives and Records Administration sent to the Department of Justice on February 9, 2022, nearly a month after Trump had returned 15 boxes of materials.
In December 2021, 12 boxes were returned to the National Archives and Records Administration. "On or about May 6, 2021, NARA made a request for the missing PRA records and continued to make requests until approximately late December 2021 when NARA was informed twelve boxes were found and ready for retrieval at the PREMISES," the affidavit states.
The affidavit continued on to say that the 15 boxes contained "highly classified documents intermingled with other records," adding that National Defense Materials were amongst those classified documents, and that those documents had been stored in an "unauthorized location" on the premises.
"It was determined through a review conducted by the FBI from May 16 to May 18 that "A preliminary triage of the documents with classification markings revealed the following approximate numbers: 184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET."
"Further, the FBI agents observed markings reflecting the following compartments/dissemination controls: HCS, FISA, ORCON, NOFORN, and SI. Based on my training and experience, I know that documents classified at these levels typically contain NDI. Several o f the documents also contained what appears to be FPOTUS 's handwritten notes," the affidavit states.
"After an initial review of the NARA Referral, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened a criminal investigation to, among other things, determine how the documents with classification markings and records were removed from the White House (or any other authorized location(s) for the storage of classified materials) and came to be stored at the PREMISES: determine whether the storage location(s) at the PREMISES were authorized locations for the storage of classified information; determine whether any additional classified documents or records may have been stored in an unauthorized location at the PREMISES or another unknown location, and whether they remain at any such location; and identify any person(s) who may have removed or retained classified information without authorization and/or in an unauthorized space," the affidavit states.
"Further, there is probable cause to believe that additional documents that contain classified NDI or that are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at the PREMISES. There is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at the PREMISES," the affidavit states.
"The facts set forth in this affidavit are based on my personal knowledge, knowledge obtained during my participation in this investigation, and information obtained from other FBI and U.S. Government personnel. Because this affidavit is submitted for the limited purpose of establishing probable cause in support of the application for a search warrant, it does not set forth each and every fact that I, or others, have learned during the course of this investigation," an FBI agent who wrote the affidavit said.
Concerns reflected in the affidavit are that the documents were improperly stored, and therefore accessible to those who did not have proper clearance to view them.
In a notice of proposed redactions, the Biden administration noted redactions that must be made on the Affidavit, stating, "the materials the government marked for redaction in the attached document must remain sealed to provide safety and privacy of a significant number of civilian witnesses, in addition to all enforcement personnel, as well as to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation and to avoid disclosure of grand jury material in violation of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
In a list of reasons for redactions, most of which were redacted themselves, three lines only read: Agent safety.
On Thursday, Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered that the redacted affidavit be released on Friday at noon, coming after the Department of Justice attempted to block its release.
On August 22, Reinhart, who had approved the search warrant authorizing the raid earlier this month, said that the raid was "unprecedented" and formally rejected the Biden administration's argument to keep the affidavit sealed, citing "intense public and historical interest."
Reinhart said in a filing that he rejects "the Government’s argument that the present record justifies keeping the entire Affidavit under seal."
"The Government argues that even requiring it to redact portions of the Affidavit that could not reveal agent identities or investigative sources and methods imposes an undue burden on its resources and sets a precedent that could be disruptive and burdensome in future cases," wrote Reinhart. "I do not need to reach the question of whether, in some other case, these concerns could justify denying public access; they very well might."
He continued: "Particularly given the intense public and historical interest in an unprecedented search of a former President’s residence, the Government has not yet shown that these administrative concerns are sufficient to justify sealing."
"Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that by the deadline, the Government shall file under seal a submission addressing possible redactions and providing any additional evidence or legal argument that the Government believes relevant to the pending Motions to Unseal," the motion says.
On August 8, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence was raided by FBI agents, taking several boxes of materials that were believed to be covered under the Presidential Records Act.
On August 11, United States Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed that he "personally approved" of the FBI raid.
Trump had called for the affidavit to be released to the public, writing, "In the interest of TRANSPARENCY, I call for the immediate release of the completely Unredacted Affidavit pertaining to this horrible and shocking BREAK-IN."
This is a breaking story and will be updated.
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