Redacted affidavits used by FBI agents to obtain a search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida have been opened, revealing more details about what the Justice Department knew about government records at Trump’s home prior to the search.
FBI agents examining boxes seized from Trump in January 2021 found “184 unique classified documents, including 67 documents marked ” CONFIDENTIAL”, 92 documents marked “SECRET” and 25 documents marked “TOP SECRET”.
The Justice Department said it was concerned that documents held at Mar-a-Lago could compromise “hidden human sources” in intelligence gathering.
The unidentified FBI agent who signed the affidavit also said that among the boxes were documents with Trump’s handwriting.
The agent wrote that a Justice Department attorney sent a letter to Mr. Trump’s attorney on June 8 to inform them that Mar-a-Lago “does not include a secure location authorized for the storage of classified information” and asked them to guard the room in which boxes with documents were kept.
The next day, Mr. Trump’s lawyer replied that he had acknowledged receipt of the letter.
In a memo in support of keeping extensive revisions of the document intact, the Department of Justice said the details of the affidavit should be withheld from the public in order to protect “the many civilian witnesses whose information was included in the affidavit.”
The government said it received information from a “wide range of civilian witnesses” whose identities must be protected as they could be subject to retaliation, intimidation or harassment by Trump supporters, including threats to their life or safety.
“FBI agents who have been publicly identified in connection with this investigation have repeatedly received threats of violence from members of the public. Revealing the identity of witnesses will likely undermine their credibility in the government investigation and will almost certainly force other potential witnesses to testify in this and other investigations,” prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors added that the government had “well-founded fears that steps could be taken to derail or otherwise interfere with this investigation” if too much information about their investigative strategy became known.
Mr Trump reacted to the release of the affidavit with a furious post on his Truth Social platform: “Affidavit heavily redacted!!! Nothing is mentioned in “Nuclear Affair”, a complete FBI and DOJ public relations ploy, or our close working relationship regarding paperwork – WE GIVE THEM A LOT. Judge Bruce Reinhart should NEVER allow my home to be broken into. Two months ago, he withdrew from one of my cases because of his hostility and hatred towards your beloved president, towards me. What changed? Why didn’t he recuse himself in this case? Obama must be very proud of him right now!”
Judge Reinhart ordered the DOJ to release redacted affidavits after a coalition of news organizations and a conservative group argued that there was strong public interest in a search of the ex-president’s home justifying a release, although prosecutors successfully persuaded him to allow them to blacken sections of the document that could reveal “the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents, and individuals who have not been charged,” or “strategy, direction, scope, sources, and methods,” referring to the ongoing investigation into how highly classified documents ended up in Mr. Trump’s case. possession during his tenure.
He also instructed the department to add corrections to protect grand jury information, which must be protected under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Notably, Mr. Trump did not join the request and did not comment on whether all or part of the affidavit should be released, although the ex-president and his lawyers called for the identities of the witnesses to be made public. The former president’s camp previously leaked an unredacted copy of the search warrant and receipt his lawyers obtained after the FBI search with the names of several FBI agents involved, prompting several Trump allies to release the agents’ alleged identities on social media.
In a ruling issued on Monday directing the department to submit proposed corrections, the Justice of the Peace said concerns about potential witness intimidation “are not hypothetical in this case,” citing the deluge of threats FBI agents and officials have received since Trump announced that his property was confiscated. searched.
“Given the publicity and controversy surrounding this search, it is likely that even witnesses not explicitly named in the affidavit will be quickly and widely identified on social media and other communication channels, potentially leading to their harassment and intimidation.” . He wrote.
The search of Mr. Trump’s property is the latest chapter in what appears to be a longstanding dispute over the ex-president’s possession of documents from his former administration.
FBI agents, supervised by prosecutors from the Department of Justice’s counterintelligence and export control division, testified under oath when they applied for a warrant to search the ex-president’s home and office on Aug. 5.
At a press conference a few days after the search, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he “personally” signed the decision to issue the warrant, which came after negotiations between his attorneys, the department and officials with the National Archives and records broke down. Control (Nara) over federal documents that Trump took from the White House when he left office on January 20, 2021.
According to a May 2021 letter published by Washington PostNara chief adviser Gary Stern, Mr. Trump collected about 24 boxes of documents — official presidential records that are legally the property of the US government — at the White House residence during his term.
Mr. Stern wrote that the boxes in question “were not turned over to NARA” when Mr. Trump left office, despite then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone’s determination that the documents collected by Mr. Trump belonged to the archives.
The missing tapes, which Trump sent to his Mar-a-Lago home — a Palm Beach mansion turned private club where he retains his main residence and state-funded post-presidential office — have been the subject of lengthy negotiations between the ex-president and the government. which he once led.
Trump eventually agreed to hand over about 15 cases of documents to Nara in January 2022, a year after his term expired, as well as his legal capacity to possess any presidential documents.
But the handover of the 15 boxes raised even more unresolved questions after Nara officials discovered that many of the papers they contained had markings indicating they were highly classified, and some records were so confidential that they were routinely kept and processed in special rooms. built to national security specifications known as sensitive media.
In February 2022, Nara officials informed the Department of Justice that classified documents were found among the boxes seized from Trump. The department then launched an investigation and asked Nara to grant access to the boxes so that FBI and intelligence community officials could conduct background checks.
The affidavit states that Nara told the Department of Justice that the boxes seized from Mar-a-Lago contained “newspapers, magazines, printed news articles, photographs, miscellaneous printouts, notes, presidential correspondence, personal and post-presidential records and many classified documents” and noted that the classified documents were “expanded, mixed with other documents and otherwise misidentified”.
The agent wrote that the event was “of greatest concern” to the Nara.
According to a May 2022 letter from Acting U.S. Archivist Debra Wall to Trump’s attorney Evan Corcoran, the White House Counsel’s office asked Nara to grant the FBI access to the boxes. Under the Presidential Records Act, the incumbent must give his consent to anyone having access to the presidential records of the recently outgoing administration, and must also consult with the former president whose records are to be made available.
Ms. Wall wrote that the records in question included “100 classified documents spanning over 700 pages,” with some documents labeled “the highest level of security, including Special Access Program (SAP) material.”
The May 2022 letter, which was released by a conservative journalist who is also one of Mr. Trump’s official representatives in Nara, shows that Mr. Trump’s lawyers resisted giving their consent to the FBI’s document check. They tried to invoke executive privilege – a legal doctrine that protects discussions between the president and his advisers – to prevent the FBI from reviewing the tapes.
But Ms. Wall, citing the advice of the Justice Department’s legal counsel, said that Mr. Trump has no reason to block the FBI’s review of FBI documents using executive authority, since the FBI is part of the executive branch.
The following month, a group of Justice Department officials, including the head of the department’s counterintelligence division, visited Mar-a-Lago in hopes of persuading Trump to return more documents he kept in a ground-floor room. Mar-a-Lago.