The US Justice Department on Friday released a redacted version of the legal document that persuaded a US judge to authorize the FBI to seize classified government records from former President Donald Trump’s Florida home. This document can shed more light on the evidence that led to the search.
Even though government lawyers were against the release of the affidavit, US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the unsealing of the affidavit with redactions. Reinhart had ordered the release of the redacted affidavit by noon on Friday. The anticipation surrounding its publication even caused the federal court website to crash. But Judge Reinhart accepted Justice Department’s arguments that there was a “compelling” need to mask significant portions of the document.
The judge ordered unsealing of the documents in the interest of the public as the investigation involves a former president.
The unredacted version of the affidavit likely explains in detail what the department is investigating and could possibly reveal sources.
FBI agents raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida on August 8 and seized boxes containing highly classified documents that Trump failed to return to the government despite multiple requests and a subpoena.
“The government is conducting a criminal investigation concerning the improper removal and storage of classified information in unauthorized spaces, as well as the unlawful concealment or removal of government records,” the 38-page affidavit began.
The FBI action was part of a federal probe into whether Trump illegally removed documents when he left office in January 2021, and whether he tried to obstruct the government’s investigation.
The warrant for the raid cited three criminal statutes, including one falling under the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to illegally obtain or retain national security information, and another on obstruction of a federal investigation.
unkindwhile, Trump has denounced the FBI raid at his Mar-a-Lago home.
“The political Hacks and Thugs had no right under the Presidential Records Act to storm Mar-a-Lago and steal everything in sight, including Passports and privileged documents,” Trump said on social media Friday.
“They even broke into my safe with a safecracker – Can you believe?” he wrote. “We are right now living in a Lawless Country, that just so happens to be, also, a Failing Nation!”
Trump filed a lawsuit Monday urging a court to name an independent party, or “special master”, to screen files seized in the FBI raid for materials protected by personal privilege.
(With inputs from agencies)