On Friday, the Justice Department unsealed a 38-page redacted version of the affidavit used to obtain a warrant for the FBI to search the former president’s home, amid pressure from the public and press.
Federal investigators previously searched Trumps’ Fla. estate on Aug. 8 for records that should have been handled by the National Archives, during which they found 11 sets of classified documents. Efforts by the Department of Justice to keep the document sealed were unsuccessful, forcing them to release a redacted affidavit that provided more clarity into what probable cause authorities had to conduct the search of Trump’s home.
Much of the document remains sealed “to protect the safety and privacy of a significant number of civilian witnesses, in addition to law enforcement personnel, as well as to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation,” said the DOJ, in its 14-page memorandum.
Here’s what we know about the investigation thus far:
The redacted affidavit reveals the truth
Authorities were forced to release a redacted affidavit after a Florida judge ruled that it was in the public’s interest.
The redacted affidavit indicated that the FBI had found probable cause that there was “evidence of obstruction” at Trump’s home.
Federal officials cited the 15 boxes, which the National Archives and Records Administration obtained in February from Trump as proof that additional documents could have been discovered. Those records included the president’s handwritten notes, and all but one of the boxes had classified information, as over half of the 184 documents were labeled as either “top secret” or “secret,” according to the affidavit.
The affidavit also referenced reports of moving trucks spotted at Trump’s Florida residence. The federal authorities claimed valuable information could be at risk because several documents had been incorrectly identified and were mixed with newspaper articles, unclassified records and other materials.
There is currently no information about the content of the documents, though the DOJ did note that there were some records labeled “NOFORN,” meaning they could not be shared with another government and “SI,” indicating special intelligence derived from foreign communication.
What led up to the search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago?
Presidential Records Act requires that documents made by Presidents must be handed to NARA after their term is over.
Trump ought to have submitted all of his records no later than January 2021. NARA had earlier announced that they were still working to recover some documents. This included records that were torn up.
In February, NARA announced that they had arranged for the transportation of 15 boxes of presidential records from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property to the National Archives. However, tensions with the ex-president remained high as NARA announced that they had arranged for the transportation of 15 boxes of presidential records from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property to the National Archives. Washington Post NARA later reported that Trump’s mishandling these documents had resulted in him violating federal law.
The FBI’s visit to Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla. property is part of this ongoing investigation, which Trump’s attorneys have been aware of since at least May, according to Politico.
A separate court filing that was unsealed on Friday shows that on May 25 Evan Corcoran, Trump’s lawyer, wrote a letter to the judge who issued the warrant for the search, attempting to dissuade the investigation from moving forward.
And despite Trump’s insistence that his presidential records were turned over in “an ordinary and routine process,” there’s evidence of rifts between authorities and the former president as a June 3 meeting between the DOJ, Trump and his lawyers on his Florida property had tensions high after officials found that records were not securely sealed.
Trump and his followers: What was their response?
Trump’s conservative allies have opposed the search of Trump’s home. They claim it is part of an Obama administration political plan to prevent him running for president again in 2024. His Save America political group sent an email to this address, Trump called the moment a “dark time for our Nation.”
Kevin McCarthy (House Minority Leader) is one of our political allies. tweeted that the DOJ had “reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization,” adding that “When Republicans take back the House, [they] will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned.”
Trump backers are calling for the online dissolution of FBI. Others have made more grave threats to authorities. On Aug. 12, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security published a bulletin warning of a spike in violent threats against federal agents, with some people calling for a “civil war” This is against the will of these agencies. Some Trump supporters had also posted agent’s personal addresses and relatives on social media, and there were reports of one armed Ohio man attempting to enter a Cincinnati FBI office.
However, despite all these accusations, there is no support for the assertion that this investigation was politically motivated. The White House maintains that it “did not have notice of the reported action” and the FBI’s current director, Christopher Wray, was appointed by Trump in 2017, having previously served under Republican leadership.
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