UNITED STATES: The U.S. Justice Department announced Friday that it is investigating former President Donald Trump for deleting White House records it believes illegally held documents, including some involving intelligence gathering and classified human resources among America’s most closely held secrets.
The department released a heavily redacted affidavit supporting the FBI’s August 8 emergency search of Trump’s Florida residence, in which agents seized 11 files of classified records, including some designated “top secret” as documents that could seriously compromise national security. if they were discovered.
An unidentified FBI agent said in an affidavit that the bureau reviewed and identified 184 “classified” documents containing “national defence information” after Trump returned 15 boxes of government records sought by the U.S. National Archives in January. Other records in those boxes carried handwritten notes from Trump, according to the affidavit.
The search was part of a federal investigation into whether Trump illegally removed and retained documents when he left office in January 2021 after losing the 2020 election to President Joe Biden, and whether Trump tried to obstruct the investigation.
Trump, a Republican who is considering another presidential run in 2024, called the court-authorized search of the Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach politically motivated and again called it a “burglary” on Friday.
Documents released with the affidavit revealed that a “significant number of civilian witnesses” with knowledge of Trump’s actions after leaving office assisted the investigation, a rare revelation.
The search was a major escalation of one of several federal and state investigations Trump is facing into his time in office and private businesses.
The agent who drafted the affidavit wrote that after the FBI reviewed materials returned by Trump to the National Archives the agency responsible for keeping government records in January, he had probable cause to believe there were more documents at Mar-a-Lago.
“There is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found on the premises,” the agent added.
Other defence-related records returned by Trump contained references to topics including “classified human resources” that help gather intelligence in the U.S., the affidavit shows, as well as details on how the country conducts foreign surveillance and information gathered by the Act that America’s domestic surveillance program.
A 32-page affidavit outlining the evidence that gave the Justice Department probable cause to ask a judge to approve a search warrant has been heavily redacted at the department’s request. Most of the pages had at least some parts blacked out. Some have completely blacked out. Six more pages of documents were released along with it.
The ministry tried to keep the affidavit secret. But after media organizations sued to publish it, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who approved the search warrant based on an affidavit, ordered the release of a redacted version Thursday.
Trump filed a “supplemental” motion late Friday asking the court to block the government from reviewing the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago until a third party known as a “special master” can be appointed to oversee the review.
Trump filed a similar motion Monday, but U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon asked for more information about the request.
Trump’s lawyers said their motion should be granted because the redacted affidavit “provides almost no information that would allow (Trump) to understand why the raid occurred or what was taken from his home.” The few unanswered lines raise more questions than answers.
Trump complained on social media that the released affidavit was “heavily redacted” and demanded that Reinhart recuse herself from the case without providing any apparent basis. Trump’s legal team has not formally made such a request.
“Judge Bruce Reinhart should have NEVER allowed my house to be broken into,” Trump wrote.
Asked by reporters if it was ever appropriate for the president to bring classified material home, Biden said, “It depends on the document and it depends on how secure” the place is.
Biden added that he has a “completely secure” site at home and that he takes home a copy of his daily news briefing on Friday, but said those records will be returned to the military at a later date.
An FBI agent said in an affidavit that a preliminary review in May of records previously obtained by the Archives from Trump found 184 “unique documents” classified as classified, 67 classified as “confidential,” 92 classified as “secret” and 25 classified as “top secret.”
The newly released documents showed how Trump allies tried to claim he declassified the records in question as a way to downplay the investigation. The affidavit mentions an article published in May by Kash Patel, a former Trump administration official, who called media reports about the National Archives identifying classified material at Mar-a-Lago “misleading.”
Also Read: US Judge Orders Release of Redacted Trump Search Court Papers