Updated Aug 26, 2022 - Politics & Policy

DOJ releases redacted Mar-a-Lago search affidavit

Mar-A-Lago is seen August 16, 2022 a week after the FBI raided the home of former President Trump, in Palm Beach, Florida
Mar-A-Lago on Aug. 16 in Palm Beach, Florida. Photo: Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Department of Justice on Friday released a redacted version of the affidavit related to the search warrant for former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence.

Why it matters: The released affidavit sheds light on new details of the criminal investigation, including the probable cause that warranted the search.

Driving the news: The unsealed affidavit revealed that 14 of the 15 boxes retrieved from Trump earlier this year by the National Archives and Record Administration contained 184 documents with classification markings.

  • Of those documents, 67 were marked as "confidential," 92 were marked as "secret," and 25 documents were marked as "top secret."
  • "Of most significant concern was that highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly [sic] identified," per the affidavit.
  • The DOJ also said that "there is probable cause to believe that additional documents that contain classified NDI [national defense information] or that are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at the PREMISES.”
  • The DOJ added there is also "probable cause" to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at Mar-a-Lago.
  • The DOJ affidavit said that the FBI believed that Trump's storage room, residential suite, Pine Hall, the "45 Office" and other spaces potentially held national defense information.

Prior to releasing the affidavit, the DOJ also released a 14-page document explaining the reasoning for why releasing the affidavit without redactions would harm the investigation and could jeopardize the safety of witnesses and agents involved.

  • “[T]he materials the government marked for redaction … must remain 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 and to avoid disclosure of grand jury material in violation of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure,” the document reads.
  • It also notes that the Florida Judge “found that disclosure of the Affidavit would likely result in witnesses being ‘quickly and broadly identified over social media and other communication channels, which could lead to them being harassed and intimidated.’”

DOJ added that the court found the affidavit contains “matters of significant public concern” and concluded that “the present record” does not “justif[y] keeping the entire Affidavit under seal.”

State of play: The previously unsealed search warrant and inventory revealed the FBI removed around 20 boxes, including 11 sets of classified information from the Trump property, including some marked as "top secret."

  • House Republicans have pressed for more information from the Justice Department and FBI in the wake of the search.
  • Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart said last Thursday that it was "very important" that the public have as "much information" as it can about the search at Trump's Florida residence.
  • “I find that the Government has met its burden of showing a compelling reason/good cause to seal portions of the Affidavit because disclosure would reveal (1) the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents, and uncharged parties, (2) the investigation’s strategy, direction, scope, sources, and methods, and (3) grand jury information protected by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure,” Reinhart wrote in his order that parts of the affidavit be redacted.

The DOJ argued for the affidavit to remain sealed, contending that its release "would provide a road map and suggest next investigative steps we are about to take," per the Washington Post.

What we’re watching: There’s been a shift in Trumpworld over the last few days with regard to the search, particularly after conservative John Solomon published a May 10 letter from the National Archives that revealed Trump took more than 700 pages of highly classified material with him after leaving office.

  • The letter also showed an extensive back and forth between Trump’s lawyers and the government, in which the government seemed to have determined Trump was either misleading them deliberately or not being fully forthcoming, and that the FBI and NARA determined the materials are not covered by executive privilege, contrary to the claims of Trump’s legal team.
  • Many Trump allies have grown quiet in recent days after initially leaning hard into their criticism of the search. There’s a renewed weariness that has seeped into some of the private conversations among Trump advisers and those in his orbit as more of these facts are released to the public, adding to a growing feeling there may be some justification for the search.

What they're saying: “We feel it is not appropriate for us to comment on this," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a briefing Friday afternoon. "This is an independent investigation that the Department of Justice is leading, something that the president finds is an important thing to do, for the Department of Justice to have that independence."

  • "Affidavit heavily redacted!!!" Trump wrote on Truth Social. "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."

Go deeper... Florida judge orders government to submit redacted Mar-a-Lago affidavit

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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