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Judge unseals redacted affidavit used to justify Trump search warrant

Trump FBI
Posted at 11:01 AM, Aug 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-26 13:41:28-04

A federal judge has unsealed a redacted version of the affidavit that was used to justify the search warrant executed earlier this month at former President Donald Trump's residence at Mar-a-Lago.

The filings that have been made public so far show that the FBI's affidavit was 38 pages long, and at least 78 paragraphs long. It is heavily redacted.

The affidavit says there was "probable cause" that evidence of obstruction would be found at the premises, Mar-a-Lago. It also states that "probable cause exists to believe that evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation 18 U.S.C. §§ 793(e), 2071, or 1519 will be found at the PREMISES."

The redacted affidavit also states that the FBI's investigation "established that documents bearing classification markings, which appear to contain National Defense Information (NDI), were among the materials contained in the FIFTEEN BOXES and were stored at the PREMISES in an undisclosed location."

According to the redacted affidavit, 14 of the 15 boxes that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) recovered in January 2022 contained classified documents.

The redacted affidavit said "of most significant concern" to the NARA was that highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly [sic] identified."

Last week, federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the Justice Department to provide him with proposed redactions to the affidavit — which likely includes witness statements and specific allegations — after media organizations including CBS News pushed for its public release. Reinhart said Thursday that the government had met its obligations to justify the redactions.

The FBI searched Trump's primary residence at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 as part of an investigation into his handling of presidential records since leaving office. On Aug. 12, the search warrant was unsealed, along with an inventory of materials seized, which listed 11 sets of classified documents.

The Mar-a-Lago search warrant was approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland and then by Reinhart on Aug. 5. Reinhart, a magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, reviewed the affidavit and its references to evidence from investigations, saying last week that "all the information that the court relied upon is in the affidavit."

The Justice Department had argued that the affidavit should remain sealed, citing the need to "protect the integrity of an ongoing law enforcement investigation that implicates national security." Investigative methods and the identities of FBI agents and witnesses are at stake, prosecutors told the judge, and said releasing the affidavit risked chilling future cooperation.

The media organizations had argued that unsealing at least portions of the affidavit is necessary to help the public understand the Justice Department's reasons for the search.

Earlier this week, Trump and his attorneys filed a motion before a different judge for the appointment of a special master to be named to review the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago. They argued a special master — a court-appointed monitor — is necessary to protect the former president's constitutional rights.

Trump's attorneys also asked that the Justice Department provide them with a more detailed accounting of what the FBI took from his Florida resort and return any property not within the scope of the search warrant.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) received 15 boxes of presidential materials from Mar-a-Lago in January. The NARA identified over 100 documents with classification markings — including some identified as Top Secret and protected by sensitive Special Access Programs — following its initial review of those boxes, according to a letter sent in May by the Archives' acting archivist to an attorney for the former president.