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Heavily redacted affidavit justifying Mar-a-Lago raid partially unsealed, reveals National Archives sent FBI after former President Trump

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Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

After a protracted back and forth concerning what to release and what to redact, on Friday, the Department of Justice released parts of the affidavit it used to justify its raid on former President Donald Trump's residence. This is the result of an August 25 order to unseal issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.

A notice and three documents have been released so far.

In the first document, an unnamed FBI special agent attested to how the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) successfully sought to obtain 15 boxes, some containing classified information, that had been moved from the Trump White House and stored at the former president's Mar-a-Lago residence. After acquiring the records, NARA is said to have then got the DOJ involved.

The agent noted how the FBI subsequently opened an investigation into how the documents were moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, how they came to be stored, whether the storage locations at Mar-a-Lago were authorized locations, whether any additional classified documents or records were stored there or elsewhere, and who, if anyone, may have removed or kept classified information without authorization.

The second unsealed document, submitted by U.S. Attorney Juan Gonzalez and chief at the Justice Department's counterintelligence and export control section Jay Bratt, iterated the Justice Department's previously publicized reasons for keeping the affidavit sealed.

The third document, entitled "Exhibit B," referenced redactions in the first document. In a chart providing "reason(s) for withholding," all but three reasons indicating "Agent safety," have also been redacted.

Document one: NARA referral and special agent attestation

The first of the unsealed documents indicates that a special agent with the FBI attested to there being classified National Defense Information among the documents allegedly kept at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home.

The agent indicated that there was "probable cause to believe that [Mar-a-Lago] contain[ed] evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation of 18 U.S. Code § 793 (Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information), 1519 (Destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations and bankruptcy), and 2071 (Concealment, removal or mutilation generally).

In the section entitled "Probable Cause," the agent indicated that, as the result of a referral from NARA to the Department of Justice on February 9, the government began conducting "a criminal investigation concerning the improper removal and storage of classified information in authorized spaces, as well as the unlawful concealment of government records."

The February 9 referral, sent by the special agent in charge of NARA's Office of the Inspector General to the DOJ, stated that upon reviewing 15 boxes that had been sent from Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence to NARA, it was determined they contained highly classified documents.

In their preliminary review of the 15 boxes that Trump had provided to NARA in January 2022, FBI agents allegedly saw markings reflecting the following compartments/dissemination controls:

  • HCS - related to human intelligence assets;
  • FISA — "Related to unclassified and declassified information that is collected from unconsenting individuals under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act";
  • ORCON — "The ORCON [Originator Controlled] marking is placed on classified national security information to indicate that it may be disseminated to other Federal agencies but may not be disseminated outside of the executive branch without the prior approval of the originating agency."
  • NOFORN — "Marking indicates that this portion contains Top Secret information not releasable to foreign nationals"; and
  • SI.

The special agent who signed the affidavit did not claim to have proof of documents classified at these levels containing NDI, but indicated they "typically" would.

In the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago, there were allegedly "184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET."

Although much of the content in the remainder of the document is redacted, there is:

  • mention of a May 6, 2021 NARA request for missing PRA records;
  • communications over the course of 2021 between Trump representatives and the chief administrator for NARA, which Trump's attorney M. Evan Corcoran characterized in a letter to Jay Bratt (included in the unsealed document) as "friendly, open, and straightforward";
  • an invocation of a CBS article entitled "Moving Trucks Spotted At Mar-a-Lago," published January 18. 2021;
  • an indication that DOJ counsel wrote to Trump's counsel on June 8, claiming that Mar-a-Lago was not authorized to store classified information, and demanding the preservation of the storage rooms and boxes moved there from the White House "until further notice"; and
  • a claim that Mar-a-Lago was an inappropriate and insecure location for what is alleged to be classified materials including NDI information.

Trump responded on Truth Social just before 2 p.m. on Friday, stating: "Affidavit heavily redacted!!! Nothing mentioned on 'Nuclear,' a total public relations subterfuge by the FBI & DOJ ... Judge Bruce Reinhart should NEVER have allowed the Break-In of my home. He recused himself two months ago from one of my cases based on his animosity of your favorite President, me. What changed? ... Obama must be very proud of him right now!"

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