Redacted FBI affidavit used to justify search of Mar-a-Lago is released
WASHINGTON (NBC News) — A redacted copy of the FBI affidavit used to justify the search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was unsealed Friday, revealing details of the federal government’s efforts to recover classified documents, including top-secret information.
The release of the FBI affidavit came after U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ruled Thursday that the document could be unsealed after the Department of Justice submitted proposed redactions.
Reinhart approved the warrant for federal agents to search Trump’s Florida property on Aug. 8 after determining that the affidavit provided probable cause. Reinhart reiterated earlier this week that he found “probable cause that evidence of multiple federal crimes would be found” at Mar-a-Lago and that he “was — and am — satisfied that the facts sworn by the affiant are reliable.”
FBI agents removed 11 sets of classified documents, including some labeled secret and top secret, according to the property receipt of items that were recovered. There were also papers described as “SCI” documents, which stands for highly classified “sensitive compartmented information.”
In a separate filing Friday, the Justice Department reiterated its case for redacting parts of the affidavit, including avoiding revealing the details of its ongoing investigation and protecting witnesses. “If witnesses’ identities are exposed, they could be subjected to harms including retaliation, intimidation, or harassment, and even threats to their physical safety,” the government wrote, noting recent threats to law enforcement following the Mar-a-Lago search.
The Justice Department also argued that revealing certain information could “severely disadvantage the government as it seeks further information from witnesses.”
Reinhart, in his order on Thursday, said that the Justice Department had shown sufficient cause to redact portions of the affidavit, agreeing that releasing the document in whole would reveal the identities of witnesses, law enforcement and “uncharged parties,” as well as the scope and methods of the investigation. The Justice Department had also shown that its redactions were “narrowly tailored,” Reinhart wrote.
The search of Mar-a-Lago earlier this month came after documents found in 15 boxes that Trump turned over from his Florida property in January were marked classified at a level that suggested they included some of the government’s most sensitive secrets, according to a May letter to Trump’s lawyers from the National Archives and Records Administration.
The Presidential Records Act mandates that all presidential records be properly preserved by each administration so that a complete set is transferred to the National Archives at the end of an administration.
Trump also received a federal grand jury subpoena this past spring for sensitive documents the government believed he retained after his departure from the White House, NBC News previously reported. A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the subpoena was related to documents that Trump’s legal team discussed with Justice Department officials at a meeting in early June.