PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 11: A great egret stands near former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on February 11, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. Published reports indicate that possible classified material was among documents recovered by the National Archives in January from the Mar-a-Lago home. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — A federal court released a partially redacted affidavit Friday detailing some of the reasons the Federal Bureau of Investigation provided to a judge in order to get a search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s private residence in Mar-a-Lago.
The request to search the property earlier this month stemmed from a batch of documents the National Archives received in January from Trump that included more than 700 pages with classified markings.
The 38-page partially redacted affidavit said federal agents believed that there was probable cause “that additional documents that contain classified [national defense information] or that are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain” at Mar-a-Lago.
The agents also wrote that there is “probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction” will be found at Mar-a-Lago.
The unsealed affidavit stated: “Of most significant concern was that highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly [sic] identified.”
Within the 15 boxes of documents the National Archives received earlier this year, the federal agents found 184 documents with classified markings, including 67 marked confidential, 92 marked secret, 25 marked top secret.
“Several of the documents also contained what appears to be FPOTUS’s handwritten notes,” the affidavit says.
Trump first announced the FBI had received a search warrant to search Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 by releasing a statement that evening.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland made a brief public statement on Aug. 11 to say the Department of Justice would ask a judge to unseal the search warrant and the property receipt, which briefly explains what the FBI confiscated during their search.
Garland said at the time he personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant and that the DOJ “does not take such decisions lightly.”
“Where possible it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search, and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken,” Garland said.
Trump and his legal team, who had copies of both documents on Aug. 8 and could have released them, didn’t object to the judge unsealing the two documents.
The search warrant and property receipt were publicly released on Aug. 12, showing that Trump was under investigation for possibly violating the Espionage Act and obstruction of justice.
The three-page property receipt, signed by Trump attorney Christina Bobb on Aug. 8 at 6:19 p.m., showed the FBI confiscated an Executive Grant of Clemency regarding Roger Jason Stone, Jr., a longtime Trump friend and adviser whom the former president pardoned; information on the President of France; binders of photographs; miscellaneous top secret documents; miscellaneous confidential documents; and 26 boxes.
The search warrant showed the FBI believed the documents Trump had at Mar-a-Lago potentially violated a section of the Espionage Act that governs gathering, transmitting or losing defense information. The search warrant cited two other laws that address concealment, removal, or mutilation generally; and destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations and bankruptcy.
In the four-page letter, Wall wrote that after ongoing conversations between the National Archives and Records Administration and Trump’s team during 2021, 15 boxes of records were transferred to NARA in January.
Those boxes included “over 100 documents with classification markings, comprising more than 700 pages,” including Special Access Program materials, one of the highest levels of classification in the federal government.
“Although the Presidential Records Act (PRA) generally restricts access to Presidential records in NARA’s custody for several years after the conclusion of a President’s tenure in office,” Wall wrote that she wouldn’t grant the Trump legal team’s request for a further delay before the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community” could begin reviewing the documents to determine if there was a risk to national security.
“NARA will provide the FBI access to the records in question, as requested by the incumbent President, beginning as early as Thursday, May 12, 2022,” Wall wrote.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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