The Justice Department on Friday released the redacted affidavit supporting the search for former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate of Mar-a-Lago.
After reviewing the DOJ’s proposed redactions Thursday, a magistrate judge ordered the redacted affidavit filed in the public roll by noon Friday.
A coalition of news organizations, including ABC News, had argued that the release was in the public interest.
The FBI special agent charged with writing the affidavit in support of the search for Mar-a-Lago writes that as a result of their ongoing criminal investigation, they had “probable reasons to believe that additional documents containing classified [National Defense Information] or which are presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain on [Mar a Lago].”
“There is also probable reason to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found on… [Mar a Lago]’ the affidavit continues.
The redacted affidavit is a total of 32 pages with an attachment, including a May 25 letter signed by Evan Corcoran, the attorney for the former Trump president, outlining what is described as Trump’s authorities regarding presidential data.
The unedited portions of the affidavit show the timeline of the Justice Department’s investigation leading up to their unprecedented move to search the residence of a former president.
It was launched, according to the affidavit, after a special agent of the Inspector General of the National Archives sent a criminal referral to the DOJ stating that the 15 boxes handed over by Trump’s team in January were “top secret.” documents” mixed with otherwise harmless documents.
The affidavit goes on to outline further interactions between NARA and Trump’s team to secure the return of data improperly taken from the White House.
Between May 16 and 18, the affidavit says, an FBI investigation revealed that in those 15 boxes handed over in January 2021, there were a total of 184 documents with the following classifications:
67 documents marked CONFIDENTIAL92 documents marked SECRET25 documents marked TOP SECRET
“Further,” the affidavit continues, “the FBI agents observed markings reflecting the following compartment/dispersion controls: HCS, FISA, ORCON, NOFORN, and SI. Based on my education and experience, I know that documents written at these levels are classified, usually [National Defense Information]. Several of the documents also contain what appears to be FPOTUS’s handwritten notes.”
The affidavit then details communications between the DOJ and one of Trump’s top attorneys, Evan Corcoran, in May 2021, in which Corcoran claimed that Trump had “absolute authority to release documents” and that the letter would be provided to any grand jury investigating the case.
The filing then goes on to reference a May 5 public Breitbart article featuring an interview with former top Trump aide Kash Patel, which sought to refute claims that Trump had brought classified material to Mar-a-Lago because he claimed that Trump had documents massively released. However, there is no evidence that this happened and Trump’s team has produced no such documentation.
Later in the affidavit, DOJ mentions a letter from one of its attorneys to Corcoran that “reiterated” that Mar-a-Lago was not authorized to store classified information and requested that the chamber documents be kept in order to further secure and protect the documents.” to keep in that room in their current state until further notice.” There is no mention in this section of DOJ instructing the president’s team to simply add a lock to the room, although Trump’s legal team has repeatedly claimed that – this is a direct DOJ request not to include the documents. move out of the room.
An unedited headline later reads: “There is likely reason to believe that documents containing classified NDI and presidential data remain on the premises.”
And after several pages of redacted lines, the sworn officer concludes that: “Based on this investigation, I believe the STORAGE ROOM, FPOTUS residential suite, Pine Hall, the “45 Office” and other areas within the BUILDING are currently unauthorized locations Similarly, based on this investigation, I believe that no spaces within the BUILDING have been authorized for the storage of classified information, at least since the end of FPOTUS Presidential Administration on January 20, 2021 .”
“As described above, evidence of the SUBJECT violations is stored in multiple locations within the BUILDING,” the affidavit says.
“The main thing the affidavit does is explain to us how this investigation went. First, in 2021, the National Archives found that there was a significant amount of missing presidential records from the Trump administration. As a result of negotiations with President Trump, 15 boxes were sent to the National Archives from Mar-a-Lago in January of this year,” reported ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas. “What they found was very disturbing — highly classified material. National Archives officials were so concerned that they turned these boxes over to the FBI last May. We have an overview of what was in those boxes. There were 184 documents marked. classified – – including 92 top secret and 25 top secret.”
In their original request to seal the affidavit, the agent argues that it should be kept sealed because the FBI “had not yet identified all potential criminal allies nor found all of the evidence related to the investigation.”
“Premature disclosure of the contents of this affidavit and related documents could have a significant and negative impact on the ongoing investigation and could seriously compromise its effectiveness by allowing criminal parties to flee, destroying evidence (whether or not stored electronically), patterns of behavior, and notify criminal allies,” the affidavit reads.
The affidavit also outlines the procedures agents would use in conducting the search that a Privilege Review Team, separate from the “Case Team,” would search Trump’s personal office and “be available to assist in the event that a proceeding with potentially privileged attorney-client information is needed.”
“If the Privilege Review Team determines that the documents or records may not be privileged between attorney and client, they will be provided to law enforcement personnel assigned to the investigation,” the affidavit said. “If at any time the law enforcement personnel assigned to the investigation subsequently identify any data or documents that they believe may be privileged between attorney and client, they will cease reviewing such identified data or documents and refer the material to the Privilege Review Team for further review by the Privilege Review Team.”
Will Steakin and Luke Barr of ABC News contributed to this report.
This is a story in development. Come back for updates.