The stunning FBI raid on Donald Trump’s Florida home was prompted by the inspection of 15 crates of documents previously handed over by the former US president that contained top secret information, including intelligence sources.
The FBI, in an affidavit used to justify the August 8 Mar-a-Lago raid, said it was conducting a criminal investigation into “improper deletion and storage of classified information” and “unlawful concealment of government records.”
A heavily redacted FBI affidavit released Friday laid out the basis for a Florida judge to authorize an unprecedented raid on the former president’s home, a move that has sparked a political storm in an already heavily divided country.
Republican Trump, who is weighing another bid for the White House in 2024, has accused the Justice Department and the FBI under Democratic President Joe Biden of running a “witch hunt” and said the judge “should never have allowed my home to be broken into” .
According to an affidavit, the FBI launched an investigation after the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) received 15 cases of documents in January 2022 that were illegally removed from the White House and taken to Mar-a-Lago.
It says National Defense Confidential Information (NDI) was among the recovered records, including 67 documents marked as confidential, 92 documents marked as classified, and 25 documents marked as top secret.
Among the documents was intelligence information from “secret sources” that are among the most closely guarded state secrets.
“Highly classified records have been exposed, mixed with other records, and otherwise misidentified,” the sworn letter says.
“Some of the documents also contained handwritten notes (by Trump),” the sworn letter says.
The affidavit states that in June, Trump’s lawyer was told by the Justice Department that Mar-a-Lago was “not authorized to hold classified information.”
When they raided Mar-a-Lago two months later, FBI agents seized another cache of documents marked Top Secret, Secret, and Confidential.
FBI agents also seized photo folders, a handwritten note, information about the “President of France” and Trump’s pardon for Roger Stone, an ally of the former president.
In a letter to the Justice Department dated May 25, 2022, released along with the affidavit, Trump’s lawyer stated that classified information may have been “unknowingly included in boxes delivered to Mar-a-Lago by movers.”
Attorney M. Evan Corcoran said Trump “willingly and willingly” cooperated with NARA’s request for the return of documents and said that any investigation should not “get involved in politics.”
Corcoran argued that the president had “absolute authority to declassify documents” and “the criminal law governing the unauthorized seizure and possession of classified documents or materials does not apply to the president.”
Government lawyers opposed the release of the affidavit, but the judge ordered it to be printed with corrections that the Justice Department said were necessary to protect the ongoing national security investigation.
The affidavit was heavily edited to remove the names of, for example, witnesses whose identities the Justice Department and the FBI want to hide.
“The government must protect the identity of witnesses at this stage of the investigation to ensure their safety,” the Justice Department said.
In its motion for a search warrant, the Justice Department said the investigation involved “deliberately retaining national defense information,” a crime under the Espionage Act, “concealing or removing government records,” and “obstructing a federal investigation.” “.
The warrant, which was personally approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland, authorized the FBI to search “Office 45” – a reference to the 45th President’s private office at his residence in Mar-a-Lago – and storage areas.
In addition to an investigation into his business practices, Trump faces legal scrutiny for his attempts to overturn the November 2020 election results and for his supporters’ attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump for the second historic time after the Capitol riot – he was charged with inciting a rebellion – but the Senate acquitted him.