Over 180 classified docs removed by National Archives from Mar-a-Lago, affidavit says
Updated August 26, 2022 at 1:05 PM ET
The affidavit that the FBI used in to get a warrant for searching former President Donald Trump's home at Mar-a-Lago is now public. A redacted version of the document was released by a federal court this afternoon.
The country's main court filing system known as PACER was unable to handle the downloading demand and pushed the release until after the court-mandated deadline of noon.
Of the 38 pages in the affidavit, nearly half were covered in thick black lines masking information that demonstrated to a federal judge the need to search Trump's Florida property.
"Probable cause exists to believe that evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed" was being improperly stored in various places at Mar-a-Lago, the affidavit states.
According to the affidavit, classified documents related to national defense were found among 15 boxes that the National Archives had obtained from Mar-a-Lago earlier in the year. Some of those documents were intermixed with other files, loose and unlabeled, which prompted the archives to refer the case to the Justice Department. As the department worked with Trump and his attorneys it became concerned about the nature of other records at the property, and that they were no adequately protected or stored.
Since the search was executed on Aug. 8, threats of violence toward the FBI have increased. Anticipating the potential for violence from Trump supporters, the agent in the affidavit asked for it to be sealed.
"I believe that sealing this document is necessary because the items and information to be seized are relevant to an ongoing investigation and the FBI has not yet identified all potential criminal confederates nor located all evidence related to its investigation," the unidentified agent wrote in the affidavit. "Premature disclosure of the contents of this affidavit and related documents may have a significant and negative impact on the continuing investigation and may severely jeopardize its effectiveness by allowing criminal parties an opportunity to flee, destroy evidence (stored electronically and otherwise), change patterns of behavior, and notify criminal confederates."
Media organizations went to court to demand that the public be able see the affidavit laying out the reasons and research for the unprecedented search. The Justice Department then countered that it contains information that could compromise ongoing investigations as well as the safety of federal employees.
Judge Bruce Reinhart last week ordered the department to provide him with a redacted version to consider for release. On Thursday he said the government had made its case that disclosing all of the affidavit would reveal witnesses, the investigation's strategy, its scope and grand jury information and there was reason to keep much of it under wraps for now. But he said that the government's proposed redactions were tailored narrowly enough to protect the integrity of the investigation and provided "the least onerous alternative" to keeping the entire document sealed.
The affidavit also explains the work of a "Privilege Review Team" to identify and segregate documents that may be shielded by attorney-client privilege.
This story will be updated.
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