Sunday, July 21, 2024
HomeLatest NewsTrump estate search: DOJ to release redacted affidavit - recap - USA...

Trump estate search: DOJ to release redacted affidavit – recap – USA TODAY

The Justice Department opposed release of even a redacted affidavit out of concern it would hurt the investigation, but a magistrate ruled the redactions would protect the integrity of the probe.

e0f645da 4da0 400e 835e 176a308b4c31 Garland on FBI


WASHINGTON – The Justice Department on Friday released a redacted version of the affidavit justifying the unprecedented search of Donald Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago. 

Some associated documents have also been made public.  The just-released records show:

  • Highly classified material at Mar-a-Lago: Highly classified national defense information was included in 15 boxes of documents initially recovered from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in January.
  • Documents included ‘Top Secret’ classification: The affidavit for the search warrant lists 184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET.”
  • Confidential human source information found at estate: The FBI uncovered highly guarded records relating to clandestine human sources – some of the most guarded information in U.S. intelligence – in 15 boxes the agency recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate earlier this year.
  • Not secure: The storage room at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s residential suite Pine Hall and his office called the “45 Office” were “not currently authorized locations for the storage of classified information or” national defense information. Documents were stored in multiple locations on the premises.
  • DOJ asks Trump team to better secure storage room: Justice Department lawyers warned Trump’s legal team on June 8 that the storage room at Mar-a-Lago holding sensitive material was not secure and should be better secured.
  • Trump responds: The former president blasted the Justice Department and U.S. Magistrate Bruce Reinhart who ordered the release of the redacted affidavit.
  • Key senator wants DOJ probe to proceed: The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said Friday the DOJ investigation into papers found at Mar-a-Lago “must be allowed to proceed without interference.”
  • Why did a judge OK the redacted affidavit’s release?: U.S. Magistrate Bruce Reinhart ordered the release Thursday and said the department could narrowly tailor the redactions while protecting the integrity of the investigation.
  • What has the Justice Department said?: Department lawyers opposed the release of the affidavit because of the risk it could reveal the strategy of the investigation or discourage witnesses from cooperating. But Reinhart found the redactions would prevent those results.
  • What action did the judge take? After three sealed documents were filed Friday in the search case, Reinhart ordered the redacted documents unsealed. He also ordered the accompanying memo and attachment unsealed.

Trump criticizes Justice Department, judge on affidavit release

Former President Donald Trump blasted the Justice Department and a federal magistrate for the “heavily redacted” nature of an affidavit supporting the search of his Mar-a-Lago property released Friday.

“Affidavit heavily redacted!!! Nothing mentioned on ‘Nuclear,’ a total public relations subterfuge by the FBI & DOJ, or our close working relationship regarding document turnover – WE GAVE THEM MUCH,” he wrote on Truth Social.

The former president also took aim at U.S. Magistrate Bruce Reinhart, who ordered the affidavit’s release, charging that Reinhart should not have allowed the search. 

– Ella Lee

Biden mocks Trump’s declassification defense

President Joe Biden on Friday mocked his predecessor’s claim that he had the power to declassify national security documents without going through the formal process.

A president can declassify “everything in the world,” he said sarcastically when asked about former President Donald Trump’s explanation for the hundreds of pages of classified material he had at his residence.

“C’mon!” Biden added.

A graphic look at the affidavit: Redacted affidavit justifying Trump Mar-a-Lago search released. Here’s what was taken out.

Trump has said he had a standing order that automatically declassified any documents he took from the Oval Office into the private residence of the White House. In fact, the long, detailed and precise process for declassifying information includes consulting with any agency with a stake in the information and documenting what has been changed.

After taking that jab, Biden said he couldn’t comment further on the situation because he doesn’t know the details.

“I don’t even want to know,” he said.

– Maureen Groppe

Senate Intelligence chairman calls for DOJ investigation to proceed

Following the release of the affidavit and accompanying documents, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said in a statement Friday that the Department of Justice’s investigation into papers found at Mar-a-Lago “must be allowed to proceed without interference.”

Warner issued the statement based on the release of the probable cause affidavit, saying that some of the documents that were improperly handled included “some of our most sensitive intelligence.”

On a bipartisan basis, the committee has requested “a damage assessment of any national security threat posed by the mishandling of this information,” Warner said.

– Erin Mansfield 

What is an affidavit?

An affidavit is a sworn statement asserting that certain facts are true to the best of one’s knowledge, made before an officer of the court or a notary – a third party authorized by state law to perform various legal tasks, according to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute.

In the affidavit supporting the search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, the name of the affiant, or person who signed the document, is redacted. 

“Information in the affidavit that would identify the affiant, such as by name or through biographical information, should remain under seal,” reads a document released Friday explaining the affidavit’s redactions. 

The Justice Department cited “agent safety” as its reasoning for keeping the affiant’s name sealed.

– Ella Lee

Feds asked Trump’s attorneys to secure Mar-a-Lago storage room holding sensitive docs

On June 8, DOJ lawyers sent Trump’s legal team a letter warning that the storage room at Mar-a-Lago holding sensitive material was not secure and should be more impenetrable.

“As I previously indicated to you, Mar-a-Lago does not include a secure location

authorized for the storage of classified information,” the DOJ letter reads. “As such, it appears that since the time classified documents were removed from the secure facilities at the White House and moved to Mar-a-Lago on or around January 20, 2021, they have not been handled in an appropriate manner or stored in an appropriate location.”

“Accordingly, we ask that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents had been stored be secured and that all of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) be preserved in that room in their current condition until farther notice.”

– Kevin McCoy

What is the meaning of ‘redacted’?

“Redaction” is the retroactive editing of a document to remove information that is confidential, according to Cornell University’s Legal information Institute

Though most of the Justice Department’s reasons for redacting the affidavit are themselves redacted, the Justice Department cited the danger of revealing the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents and uncharged parties; the investigation’s strategy and scope; and grand jury information as reasons to keep the affidavit at least partially sealed.

– Ella Lee

Trump lawyer says Trump could declassify documents, not subject to criminal liability

Trump as president had “absolute authority to declassify documents,” Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran wrote May 25 to Jay Bratt, the head of the counterintelligence section at the Justice Department.

Trump and his aides have said he could declassified documents before moving them to Mar-a-Lago. But authorities have found no documentation of the alleged declassification.

Because of a president’s ultimate legal authority under the Constitution, Corcoran argued his actions dealing with classified documents “are not subject to criminal sanction.” Any imposition of criminal liability on a president or former president over classified documents “would implicate grave constitutional separation-of-powers issues.”

“Beyond that, the primary criminal statute that governs the unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material does not apply to the president,” Corcoran wrote.

Legal experts rejected arguments about separation of powers because the National Archives and Records Administration, the Justice Department and the White House are all part of the executive branch.

– Bart Jansen

Confidential human sources among trove of Trump documents, plus Trump’s ‘handwritten notes’

The FBI’s initial examination of 15 boxes retrieved from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate earlier this year revealed a trove of 184 “unique documents bearing classified markings,” including highly guarded records relating to human sources marked as “HCS.”  

“Based on my training and experience, I know that documents classified at these levels typically contain (National Defense Information),” the affidavit stated. “Several of the documents also contained what appears to be FPOTUS ‘s handwritten notes.”

– Kevin Johnson

What was in the boxes Trump returned to the National Archives?

The redacted Department of Justice affidavit for the search warrant says “a preliminary triage of the documents with classification markings revealed the following approximate numbers: 184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET.”

Additionally, FBI agents found markings that reflected some of the documents contained national defense information. Several of the documents also contained what appeared to be Trump’s “handwritten notes,” the affidavit said.

– Kevin McCoy

‘Evidence of obstruction: National defense information among initial documents found at Mar-a-Lago

Highly classified national defense information was included in 15 boxes of documents initially recovered from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in January, launching federal investigators on a criminal investigation into handling of classified information, according to a newly-unsealed government affidavit supporting the unprecedented search of Trump’s property.

“There is probable cause to believe that additional documents that contain classified (National Defense Information) or that are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at the PREMISES,” the heavily redacted document states. “There is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at the PREMISES.”

– Kevin Johnson

Affidavit: Trump storage rooms not considered secure for classified documents

After pages of blacked-out passages, the affidavit said the storage room at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s residential suite Pine Hall and his office called the “45 Office” were “not currently authorized locations for the storage of classified information or” national defense information.

Documents were stored in multiple locations on the premises.

– Bart Jansen

Justice Department releases affidavit

The Justice Department on Friday made public a redacted version of the affidavit that justified the search of Donald Trump’s home, a day after a magistrate ordered its release because of high public interest in the case.

The department had opposed the affidavit’s release, arguing it could hurt the investigation into why government documents, including hundreds of pages of classified records, were stored at Mar-a-Lago. The department argued the affidavit would disclose the identity of witnesses and the strategy behind the investigation.

But U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the release Thursday, ruling that redactions could be narrowly tailored to prevent hurting the inquiry.

– Bart Jansen

Read the (redacted) affidavit that supported the search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate

Associated documents also unsealed

Besides the affidavit, the flurry of documents U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart unsealed included:

– A memo from the government explaining reasons for the redactions in the affidavit and an exhibit itemizing the reasons for redactions.

– The order that had sealed the redacted memo.

– The government motion to initially seal the memo.

– An order initially sealing a government memo about the redactions, along with two exhibits.

– A supplemental memo about the redactions.

– Bart Jansen

Affidavit is roadmap to DOJ investigation

Justice Department officials described the affidavit supporting the Mar-a-Lago search as extremely detailed, warning that if released in full could lead to possible obstruction of its ongoing inquiry.

“Although the public is now aware that the government executed a search warrant at the premises owned by the former President and seized documents marked as classified, the affidavit is replete with further details that would provide a roadmap for anyone intent on obstructing the investigation,” according to newly unsealed documents.

Justice officials not only expressed concern for witnesses and the course of the investigation, but also for the safety of federal law enforcement agents.

“Meanwhile, FBI agents who have been publicly identified in connection with this investigation have received repeated threats of violence from members of the public,” the Justice document said. “Exposure of witnesses’ identities would likely erode their trust in the government’s investigation, and it would almost certainly chill other potential witnesses from coming forward in this investigation and others.”

– Kevin Johnson

DOJ cites concerns for witness safety

Justice Department officials expressed deep concern for the safety of witnesses in its continuing investigation into former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents, according to a newly unsealed memorandum arguing for redactions of key information from the affidavit authorizing the Mar-a-Lago search.

“First and foremost, the government must protect the identity of witnesses at this stage of the investigation to ensure their safety,” Justice officials wrote. “As this Court noted, if information relating to witnesses were disclosed, “it is likely that even witnesses who are not expressly named in the Affidavit would be quickly and broadly identified over social media and other communication channels, which could lead to them being harassed and intimidated.”

– Kevin Johnson

Biden defers to Justice Department on national security implications

President Joe Biden declined to say Friday whether U.S. national security was threatened by his predecessor’s storage of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

“We’ll let the Justice Department determine that,” Biden said at a White House event marking Women’s Equality Day.

Biden was responding to a shouted question from a reporter.

The White House has repeatedly declined to answer questions about the FBI’s retrieval of the documents and its potential implications.

– Maureen Groppe

Trump blasts search as partisan witch hunt

Ex-President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the FBI search on social media and in other statements, but many of his complaints are unfounded, according to a USA TODAY analysis.

Trump said there was “no way” to justify the search of Mar-a-Lago, even though FBI agents seized boxes of government documents – including 11 sets of classified records. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart authorized the search for evidence of potential mishandling defense documents and obstruction of justice.

Trump asserted executive privilege over the documents. But as government officials review what was recovered, legal experts say the former president has no claims of executive privilege to keep one portion of the executive branch from getting documents from another part.

Trump also complained about the FBI taking three of his passports. The Justice Department returned them – two were expired and one was an active diplomatic passport – after a review found they were unrelated to the search.

Attorney General Merrick Garland defended the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors in the search he approved.

– Bart Jansen

What led to the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home?

Though watchdogs raised red flags over former President Donald Trump’s record management as early as 2018, it came under greater scrutiny in February, after the National Archives obtained 15 boxes of presidential records that Trump had stored at his Mar-a-Lago residence — some of which the agency later confirmed were classified.

The Justice Department in April moved to investigate the handling of White House documents sent to Mar-a-Lago. Months later, in June, the former president was served with a subpoena seeking other sensitive government documents that investigators believed he’d stored there after he left the White House.

Federal agents searched Trump’s Florida property on Aug. 8, leaving with some 20 boxes of items that included 11 sets of classified documents. A warrant authorizing the search showed Trump is under investigation for possibly breaking three federal laws: removal or destruction of records, obstructing an investigation and violating the Espionage Act. 

– Ella Lee

Biden not expected to comment

Don’t expect President Joe Biden to weigh in on whatever is released in the redacted version of the affidavit justifying the FBI’s retrieval of materials from Mar-a-Lago, including 11 sets of classified documents.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would not answer questions Wednesday about whether the administration has assessed the national security risk of the documents being moved and stored at Trump’s private Florida residence.

“We just are not going to comment on the contents of this ongoing, independent investigation that the Department of Justice is doing,” Jean-Pierre said. “We’re not going to comment on the underlying materials at this time. We’re just not going to do that.” 

NBC News reported this week that the intelligence community does not appear to have launched a formal damage assessment, which is required “when there is an actual or suspected unauthorized disclosure or compromise of classified national intelligence that may cause damage to U.S. national security.” Assessments may also be conducted “when there is an actual or suspected loss, misuse, or unauthorized access to or modification of classified national intelligence that could adversely affect national security,” according to the 2104 policy.

– Maureen Groppe

From Florida to Georgia, Trump-related legal action churns on

In addition to the highly anticipated release of the redacted affidavit supporting the Mar-a-Lago search, legal action involving former President Donald Trump is playing out Friday in multiple other venues.

Trump’s legal team is due to file an amended request in a separate Florida federal court calling for the appointment of a special master or third party to review the classified documents seized from Trump’s Florida estate during the FBI’s Aug. 8 search to ensure that possibly privileged material is shielded from scrutiny.

The initial request, cast in starkly political terms, was filed earlier this week, but a federal judge asked that Trump’s lawyers more clearly state their case for making such a request.

Trump’s lawyers described the government’s search, which resulted in the seizure of 11 sets of classified documents, as overly broad because it authorized FBI agents to seize “boxes of documents merely because they are physically found together with other items purportedly within the scope of the warrant.”

In Georgia, meanwhile, the Atlanta-area district attorney leading a separate criminal inquiry into interference in the 2020 election has summoned Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows to appear before a special grand jury.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis described Meadows as a “material witness” to possible election-related fraud. Prosecutors referred to Meadows’ alleged role in arranging a Jan. 2, 2021 telephone call in which Trump pressured Georgia Secretary State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to tilt the Georgia election in his favor.

– Kevin Johnson

Biden said he had ‘zero’ advance notice of the Mar-a-Lago search

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he had “zero” advance notice before federal agents executed a search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence earlier this month. 

“I didn’t have any advanced notice – none, zero, not one single bit,” Biden said Wednesday, his first public comments on the search.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has said that no one at the White House was given a heads-up about the unprecedented search and that Justice Department investigations should be “free from political influence.”

“The Justice Department conducts investigations independently, and we leave any law enforcement matters to them,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Aug. 9. She said Biden “was not briefed, was not aware of it.”

– Ella Lee

Trump lawyers stumble in lawsuit over search

Donald Trump’s lawyers continued to stumble in their lawsuit to halt the review of classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon scolded lawyers James Trusty of Washington, D.C., and Evan Corcoran of Baltimore for not following local rules when they filed their lawsuit Monday. The two lawyers were not licensed to practice in Florida, where the case is being heard. They refiled the necessary paperwork Tuesday and were approved Wednesday.

On Thursday, lawyer Lindsey Halligan filed to change her local address in the case, but it was rejected because she hadn’t followed the required procedures.

In the lawsuit, Trump seeks to halt the government’s review of documents seized during the search on Aug. 8. The filing accused Attorney General Merrick Garland of using the search to play politics with the November elections.

– Bart Jansen

What classified documents have been found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate?

FBI agents seized 11 sets of classified documents among other records while searching Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8. Trump blasted the search as a partisan witch hunt and said he was cooperating with authorities. He sought the return of the documents.

The search came after the National Archives and Records Administration retrieved 15 boxes of documents in January, including 100 classified records totaling 700 pages. Federal authorities also recovered classified documents under subpoena on June 3.

Media companies including The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Network, argued for release of the affidavit to learn more about what provoked the unprecedented search of a former president’s home.

– Bart Jansen

Trump aides unlikely to face charges on their own in Mar-a-Lago probe, ex prosecutors say

Donald Trump’s aides are unlikely to be charged with mishandling government documents recovered in the unprecedented search of his Florida estate unless the former president is charged too, according to legal experts.

Potential criminal charges including the Espionage Act cited in the search warrant require willful criminal intent, a legal standard that might not apply to aides who simply packed or moved boxes without knowing what they contained, according to former prosecutors. The Espionage Act doesn’t necessarily allege spying, but mishandling documents about national defense. 

Aides who knowingly moved or hid classified records could face potential charges. But even then former prosecutors said they wouldn’t expect document charges against aides unless Trump himself were charged.

– Bart Jansen

Mar-a-Lago document investigation: Trump aides unlikely to face charges on their own in Mar-a-Lago probe, ex prosecutors say

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments