WASHINGTON — The U.S. Justice Department on Friday released a redacted version of an affidavit filed to get a search warrant for the Mar-a-Lago estate of former president Donald Trump.
While the affidavit is heavily redacted, it provides a glimpse into the process undergone during the criminal probe that led to the unprecedented search warrant executed on a former president's home.
The affidavit, which was released in response to a judge's order, begins by explaining that the DOJ was first contacted by the United States National Archives and Records Administration after NARA retrieved 15 boxes of records from Mar-a-Lago.
NARA is charged with maintaining and securing presidential records, and has been in talks with Trump representatives since 2021 about materials at Mar-a-Lago.
"The NARA Referral stated that on January 18, 2022, in accordance with the Presidential Records Act ... NARA received from the office of former President (Donald J. Trump) ... via representatives, fifteen boxes of records."
A letter from NARA officials to Trump's legal team had previously revealed that about 100 documents with classified status, totaling more than 700 pages, were recovered in the January retrieval.
Within those 15 boxes were 184 unique classified documents, including 64 marked as Confidential, 92 marked as Secret and 25 labeled as Top Secret. Many of the documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago before the warrant had Trump's hand-written notes on them.
"Of most significant concern was that highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly [sic] identified," the affidavit explained.
Once the DOJ was called in, according to the affidavit, the FBI began a criminal investigation to determine how the documents were removed from the White House, whether they were being securely stored and to identify those who took or retained classified documents without authorization.
The writer of the affidavit, an FBI agent in charge of the investigation whose name was among the redactions, said there was probable cause to believe additional classified materials were still housed at Mar-a-Lago.
The document also confirms that the criminal investigation was being conducted into potential violations of the Espionage Act, as well as obstruction of justice and criminal handling of presidential records.
The probable cause section of the Affidavit features large sections of redacted text, but viewable material appears to lay out a linear walkthrough of the FBI's evidence.
The affidavit references a CBS Miami article about moving vans seen at Mar-a-Lago in the last days of Trump's presidency, but the text under that reference is redacted, making it impossible to determine if the FBI believed presidential records were moved on those trucks.
By the time the FBI was brought in, around May 2022, NARA had already negotiated the release of 15 boxes of presidential records, and took them from Mar-a-Lago in January.
When the FBI began combing through the documents, they discovered that many had markings associated with strict recordkeeping procedures that did not appear to have been followed.
"Based on my training and experience, I know that documents classified at these levels typically contain NDI," the agent in charge of the investigation wrote. "Several of the documents also contained what appears to be FPOTUS's handwritten notes."
The document also references claims by Trump allies that Trump had a "standing order" to declassify documents brought to Mar-a-Lago. Although the relevant text is redacted, multiple outlets have reported that Trump administration officials didn't recall any such order and any of that scope would be a serious breach of protocol.
On June 8, according to the affidavit, the agent in charge of the investigation sent a letter to Trump's legal team advising them that they should maintain and secure any presidential records.
"As I previously indicated to you, Mar-a-Lago does not include a secure location authorized for the storage of classified information. As such, it appears that since the time classified documents (Redacted) were removed from the secure facilities at the White House and moved to Mar-a-Lago on or around January 20, 2021, they have not been handled in an appropriate manner or stored in an appropriate location. Accordingly, we ask that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents had been stored be secured and that all of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) be preserved in that room in their current condition until farther notice."
Three pages of the document outlining the FBI's probable cause to believe classified documents were still at Mar-a-Lago were completely redacted. Below, the agent said the bureau believed records were being kept in multiple areas of the estate.
"As described above, evidence of the (subject offenses) has been stored in multiple locations at the (premises)," he wrote.
In a special note, the DOJ requested that all documents filed in support of the affidavit — including the application itself and the search warrant produced in response to the probable cause found in it — be sealed. Various documents, including the warrant and property receipt, were subsequently released once the search became public.
You can read the entirety of the redacted affidavit below: