The FBI sought to justify its controversial raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate after discovering 184 classified documents had been stored there — including some with top secret markings designed to protect spies, according to an affidavit unsealed Friday.
The heavily redacted, 38-page affidavit, which was finally released by the Justice Department early Friday afternoon, offers the most detailed description yet of the records uncovered from Trump’s estate amid the federal probe into whether he allegedly illegally handled classified documents.
“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,” an unidentified FBI agent wrote on the first page of the affidavit.
The affidavit raised concerns about a batch of 15 boxes that the National Archives and Records Administration had retrieved from Mar-a-Lago in Florida in January after Trump left the White House.
Some of the documents were marked “HCS,” an abbreviation for the HUMINT Control System, which refers to highly classified government measures used to “protect intelligence information derived from clandestine human sources” — aka spies.
The affidavit also suggests that some of the classified documents may have contained highly sensitive information about how spies collect information on foreign targets from their “human intelligence” sources.
A preliminary search of the material retrieved from Trump’s residence was carried out by the FBI in May, the affidavit says.
The search uncovered documents with classification markings in 14 of the boxes — including “184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET,” the affidavit said.
In seeking a judge’s approval for a warrant, the FBI said it had “probable cause to believe evidence of obstruction would be found” at Mar-a-Lago, according to the affidavit.
The document also pointed to the DOJ’s concerns that the classified materials Trump took with him when he left the White House had “not been handled in an appropriate manner or stored in an appropriate location.”
The FBI agent added that a storage room, residential suite and the “45 Office” within Mar-a-Lago were “not currently authorized locations for the storage of classified information.”
The eagerly awaited release of the affidavit came after US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who approved the warrant that led to the Aug. 8 raid, ordered the unsealing of the affidavit by noon Friday — despite the DOJ’s objections.
The Justice Department had argued against the release of the affidavit, saying that it included key details that were “highly likely to compromise future investigative steps” into whether the 45th president illegally kept classified information at Mar-a-Lago.
In total, 11 of the pages in the affidavit were completely redacted when it was made public, while substantial portions of 23 other pages were blacked out.
The affidavit released Friday also showed efforts by Trump’s legal team to claim he had the power to declassify documents prior to leaving the White House.
“Any attempt to impose criminal liability on a President or former President that involves his actions with respect to documents marked classified would implicate grave constitutional separation-of-powers issues,” Trump’s defense attorney Evan Corcoran wrote in a letter to the Justice Department on May 25.
“Beyond that, the primary criminal statute that governs the unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material does not apply to the President.”
In a footnote, the affidavit points to how the law that Trump is being investigated over doesn’t explicitly use the term “classified information.” Instead, it criminalizes the unlawful retention of “information relating to the national defense,” according to the affidavit.
In ordering the release of the affidavit, the judge on Thursday acknowledged the extraordinary public interest in the historic investigation.
“The government has met its burden of showing that its proposed redactions are narrowly tailored to serve the government’s legitimate interest in the integrity of the ongoing investigation and are the least onerous alternative to sealing the entire affidavit,” Reinhart said in his ruling.
Trump on Friday ripped the massive redacting of the affidavit, saying the move was yet further evidence of a “WITCH HUNT!!!”
“A total public relations subterfuge by the FBI & DOJ, or our close working relationship regarding document turnover – WE GAVE THEM MUCH,” Trump raged.
He added, “Judge Bruce Reinhart should NEVER have allowed the Break-In of my home.”
The FBI carried away 27 boxes from Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 — including 11 sets of classified government records.
The search was part of the ongoing federal investigation into whether Trump illegally removed and kept documents from the White House when he left office in January 2021 and whether he tried to obstruct the government’s investigation.
The documents the FBI seized were in addition to 700 pages worth of classified records the National Archives recovered from Mar-a-Lago in January, which were detailed in the redacted affidavit released Friday.
President Joe Biden said Friday that it was up to the Justice Department to determine if national security was compromised at Mar-a-Lago.
He insisted earlier this week that he “didn’t have any advance notice” of the raid on his predecessor, saying: “None, zero, not one single bit.”1278
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Trump has filed a separate civil case asking another judge to halt the FBI’s review of the seized records pending the appointment of a special master to independently review them for materials that could be protected under executive privilege, a legal principle that lets a president shield some information.
With Post wires
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