WASHINGTON (AP) — Fourteen of 15 boxes discovered earlier this year at former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate contained classified documents, many top secret, mixed with various newspapers, magazines and personal correspondence, according to a statement released Friday. FBI under oath.
Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate did not have a place to store classified materials, according to court documents outlining the FBI’s rationale for searching the property this month, including “probable reason to believe evidence of obstruction will be found.” found.”
The 32-page sworn written document — heavily redacted to protect the safety of witnesses and law enforcement officials, as well as the “honesty of the ongoing investigation” — offers the most detailed description to date of government records held at Mar-a-Lago long after Trump. left the White House. It also indicates the seriousness of the government’s concern that the documents were there illegally.
The document makes clear how the haphazard storage of top secret government documents and apparent failure to keep them safe despite months of cajoling from U.S. officials has put Trump in new legal danger as he lays the groundwork for another potential presidential race in 2024.
“The government is pursuing a criminal investigation into the improper deletion and storage of classified information in unauthorized locations, and the unlawful concealment or deletion of government records,” the FBI agent wrote on the front page of the affidavit.
Previously released documents show federal agents are investigating possible violations of several federal laws, including one that governs the collection, transfer, or loss of protection information under the Espionage Act. Other laws deal with the concealment, alteration, or deletion of records, and the destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in the course of federal investigations.
Trump has long insisted, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that he was fully cooperating with government officials. And he rallied Republicans behind him by presenting the raid as a politically motivated witch hunt designed to undermine his prospects for re-election. He repeated the refrain on his social media site on Friday, saying he and his representatives had a close working relationship with the FBI and “GAVED THEM A LOT.”
The affidavit does not provide new details about the 11 sets of classified documents found during a search on August 8 in Mar-a-Lago, but instead refers to a separate batch of 15 boxes that the National Archives and Records Administration seized from the house in January . The Archives then forwarded the case to the Justice Department, stating in its appeal that the audit revealed “a lot” of classified material, according to an affidavit.
The affidavit alleges that the Mar-a-Lago search was necessary because of the highly sensitive material found in the 15 boxes. Of the 184 documents marked “secret,” 25 are classified as “top secret,” the sworn statement said. Some had special markings indicating that they contained information from highly sensitive human sources or electronic “signal” collection authorized by a special intelligence court.
And some of these secret records were mixed with other documents, including newspapers, magazines and various printouts, the sworn letter says, citing a letter from the Archives.
Douglas London, a former high-ranking CIA officer and author of The Recruiter, said it showed Trump’s disrespect for control. “One of the rules of secrecy is not to mix secret and unclassified so that there are no mistakes or accidents,” he said.
The affidavit shows how the agents were allowed to search most of Mar-a-Lago, including Trump’s official post-presidential “Office 45,” storage areas, and all other places where boxes or documents could be stored. They did not offer to search areas of property used or rented by Mar-a-Lago members, such as private guest suites.
The FBI submitted an affidavit or sworn statement to a judge in order to obtain a search warrant for Trump’s property. Affidavits usually contain vital information about the investigation, with agents explaining why they want to search a particular location and why they think they might find evidence of a potential crime there.
The affidavit usually remains sealed during pending investigations. But in recognition of the extreme public interest in the investigation, US Magistrate Bruce Reinhart on Thursday ordered the department to release an edited version of the affidavit by Friday.
In a separate document released Friday, Justice Department officials said some information needed to be redacted to “protect the safety and privacy of a significant number of civilian witnesses other than law enforcement officials, and protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.” the study.”
The second half of the affidavit is almost entirely redacted, making it impossible to determine the scope of the investigation or where it might be directed. It does not reveal which individuals may be under investigation, nor does it address basic questions such as why top secret documents were brought to Mar-a-Lago after the presidential term, even though the government considers them to be presidential documents and despite the fact that classified information requires special storage.
Trump’s Republican allies in Congress remained silent on Friday when the affidavits emerged, another sign of the Republican Party’s reluctance to publicly part ways with the former president, whose influence over the party remains strong during the midterm election season. Both sides have demanded more information about the search, and lawmakers have requested briefings from the Justice Department and the FBI as soon as Congress returns from summer recess.
While a spokesman for Trump derided the investigation as “all politics,” the affidavit made it clear that the FBI raid was far from the first time federal law enforcement had raised concerns about the tapes. Last spring, for example, a senior counterintelligence officer from the Department of Justice visited Mar-a-Lago to assess how records are being kept.
The affidavit includes excerpts from a June 8 letter in which a Justice Department official reminded Trump’s lawyer that Mar-a-Lago was not authorized to keep secret records. The official requested that the room on the estate where the documents were kept be secured and that the boxes that had been moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago “be preserved in this room in their current state until further notice.”
The correspondence culminated in a search on August 8, during which agents recovered 11 sets of secret records.
The document, released Friday, also provides insight into the arguments that Trump’s legal team is expected to make as the case progresses. It includes a letter from Trump attorney M. Evan Corcoran arguing that the president has “absolute authority” to declassify documents and that “the actions of the president in relation to classified documents are not subject to criminal penalties.”
Mark Zaid, a longtime national security lawyer who has criticized Trump for his handling of classified information, said the letter was “clearly wrong” because it claimed Trump could declassify “everything and everything.”
“There are some legal, technical defenses regarding certain provisions of the espionage law, whether they apply to the president,” Zaid said. “But some of these provisions do not make distinctions that might raise an objection.”
In addition, the affidavit contains a footnote noting that one of the laws that may have been violated does not even use the term “classified information” and instead criminalizes illegal possession of national defense information.
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