The affidavit released Friday related to the search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Fla., says there was probable cause to believe classified documents were kept there — as well as probable cause to believe that “evidence of obstruction will be found at the premises.” Photo By Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo
The Justice Department on Friday released a partly redacted search warrant affidavit that lays out why FBI agents showed up at former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida this month looking for classified materials.
The search was conducted as part of an ongoing criminal investigation involving Trump taking boxes of White House records with him when he left the White House in 2021. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the affidavit’s release, but allowed some information to be blacked out to protect witnesses and the integrity of the investigation.
The document cites probable cause to believe classified documents were at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Fla. — as well as probable cause to believe that “evidence of obstruction will be found at the premises.”
Further, the affidavit said there was probable cause to believe that “evidence, contraband, fruits of crime or other items illegally possessed” would be found at Trump’s home.
Presidents are required to turn over many documents to the National Archives when they leave office. For months, the National Archives and Records Administration has been asking Trump to return records that should be there.
According to the affidavit released Friday, federal agents became suspicious that Trump was keeping classified documents when they examined several boxes of records that the former president had given to the archives. Some of those documents had “HSC” markings, which indicates highly classified materials.
The affidavit said the FBI investigation began with a referral from the National Archives in February. The FBI sought to determine how the documents were removed from the White House, identify anyone who may have moved them without legal authorization, and determine whether Mar-a-Lago was an authorized storage location for the documents.
The affidavit cites multiple federal laws that may have been violated, including a statute that makes it a crime for taking documents related to national defense and failing to return the documents to the U.S. government. Violating that statute — 18 U.S.C. § 793 (e) — carries a 10-year prison sentence and fines.
Another statute cited in the affidavit — 18 U.S.C. § 1519 — carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine for obstruction of justice.
The affidavit indicates multiple efforts were made by the government to secure the documents months before the search.
A letter sent to Trump’s legal counsel June 8 reiterated that “Mar-a-Lago does not include a secure location authorized for the storage of classified information.” The letter asked that all items removed from the White House be preserved and that the room where the documents were being kept be secured.
A group of news media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, had asked Reinhart to unseal the search documents for transparency.
On Thursday, Reinhart said the Justice Department convinced him that portions of the affidavit should remain sealed because “disclosure would reveal (1) the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents, and uncharged parties, (2) the investigation’s strategy direction, scope, sources and methods and (3) grand jury information.”
Reinhart found that the government met its burden in showing that the redactions are narrowly tailored to protect the integrity of the operation.
Judge orders Justice Dept. to release redacted Mar-a-Lago search affidavit