Politics

Trump search affidavit reveals potential for ‘evidence of obstruction’ at Mar-a-Lago – live


Affidavit details probable cause

The affidavit as released is of course full of redactions, across its 38 pages. But it reveals some interesting nuggets about the search, including that the Department of Justice and FBI had “probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction” would be found at Mar-a-Lago.

In another interesting section … the affidavit says that on 9 February 2022, the DoJ leaned that a preliminary review of 15 boxes taken to Mar-a-Lago “indicated that they contained ‘newspapers, magazines, printed news articles, photos, miscellaneous print-outs, notes, presidential correspondence, personal and post-presidential records, and ‘a lot of classified records’.

“Of most significant concern was that highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly [sic] identified.”

The affidavit reproduces a Trump statement after the issue became public, and then … is extensively redacted. The redacted passage is a chronological retelling of how the issue developed.

The next significant un-redacted passage contains the news that Trump’s own notes were included in the materials in question. It reads as follows:

“From May 16-18, 2022, FBI agents conducted a preliminary review of the FIFTEEN BOXES provided to NARA and identified documents with classification markings in fourteen of the FIFTEEN BOXES. A preliminary triage of the documents with classification markings revealed the following approximate numbers: 184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET. Further, the FBI agents observed markings reflecting the following compartments/dissemination controls: HCS, FISA, ORCON, NOFORN, and SI.

“Based on my training and experience, I know that documents classified at these levels typically contain NDI. Several of the documents also contained what appears to be FPOTUS’s [Trump’s] handwritten notes.

Key events

‘They are attacking democracy’ – White House defends Biden’s remarks on Trumpism as “semi-fascism”

Joanna Walters

Joanna Walters

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has just finished briefing the media and taking questions and she was asked about Joe Biden’s remarks at a fundraiser last night where he referred to the “MAGA Republican philosophy” as akin to “semi-fascism”.

Asked to explain what the US president meant by that remark, Jean-Pierre said of right-wing Republicans: “He was very powerful last night. When it comes to ‘MAGA Republicans’, when it comes to the extreme, ultra wing of the Republicans, they are attacking democracy, they are taking away rights and freedoms, they are using threats of violence, taking away voting rights, and he [Biden] called it what it is … and what many would argue, historians would agree with us on.”

“He believes that presidents should be the strongest voice for democracy,” she added.

Jean-Pierre also strove to differentiate between what she referred to as “traditional, conservative” Republicans and the [Trumpist] “Make America Great Again” rightwing loyalists to the former president.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks to the press moments ago.
The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, speaks to the press. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Interim summary

A quick recap, blog readers, it’s been a dramatic morning and there will be plenty more news over the coming few hours. But for now, here’s where things stand:

  • Donald Trump has released a statement about the release of the government affidavit that underpinned the search of his Mar-a-Lago club and residence in Florida earlier this month. He posted it on Truth Social, his struggling social media platform that he created after being banned by Twitter.

  • The US Department of Justice and the FBI had “probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction” would be found at Mar-a-Lago when it sought a warrant to search the property, the affidavit notes.

  • The affidavit is replete with details that would provide “a roadmap” for anyone intent on obstructing the investigation.

  • The affidavit reminds us of the context of the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, thus: “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.”

  • While the public waited for the affidavit to be released, we also noted that Joe Biden called the “MAGA Republican” philosophy “semi-fascism” last night, based on the anti-democratic efforts of the more extreme wing of the GOP that hews unfailingly to Trump.

Trump statement released

We have Donald Trump’s reaction, on Truth Social, the social media platform he set up after being kicked off Twitter over the Capitol attack…

Affidavit heavily redacted!!! Nothing mentioned on “Nuclear,” a total public relations subterfuge by the FBI & DOJ, or our close working relationship regarding document turnover – WE GAVE THEM MUCH. 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 and hatred of your favorite President, me. What changed? Why hasn’t he recused himself on this case? Obama must be very proud of him right now!

To unpick:

  • “Nuclear” – it has been reported that some of the materials kept at Mar-a-Lago concerned nuclear weapons. And some concerned Emmanuel Macron, which, by the by, might interest Liz Truss. But anyway…

  • “Break-in” – nope. Warrant duly served, etc, which is why we’re here.

  • “Obama must be very proud” of the judge … we may all remember John Roberts, the chief justice of the supreme court, rebuking Trump for referring to “Obama judges”, etc. We may also all remember Trump’s pride at having installed a huge number of judges himself, including three on Roberts’ court. In short – judges are not meant to act politically but they are politically appointed. And so on.

  • Of Judge Reinhart: he made a donation to Barack Obama in 2008. He also donated to Republicans, if not Donald J Trump.

Attached to the affidavit is a letter from lawyers for Donald Trump, complaining of unfair treatment and asserting a president’s “absolute authority to declassify documents” – both features of his response to the search and the claims of his supporters in Republican ranks and on the right of the US media.

The letter, signed by M Evan Corcoran of Silverman Thompson Slutkin White, begins:

Public trust in the government is low. At such times, adherence to the rules and long-standing policies is essential. President Donald J Trump is a leader of the Republican Party. The Department of Justice (DOJ), as part of the Executive Branch, is under the control of a President from the opposite party. It is critical, given that dynamic, that every effort is made to ensure that actions by DOJ that may touch upon the former President, or his close associates, do not involve politics.”

I refer you back to President Joe Biden’s comment to reporters before the affidavit was filed today, when asked if he thought national security might have been compromised at Mar-a-Lago while Trump was storing classified documents there:

We’ll let the justice department determine that.”

The lawyers’ letter conforms to Trump’s worldview, that attorneys general and the Department of Justice exist to serve presidents politically. Biden’s answer speaks for generally accepted wisdom, which is that the DoJ does not exist for that purpose and is in fact independent of any White House or administration.

The affidavit contain reference to and quotes from a back-and-forth between the DoJ and counsel for Donald Trump (referred to as FPOTUS, or Former President of the United States) over storage of materials at Mar-a-Lago.

After a lot of redactions, the agent writes: “Based upon this investigation, I believe that the STORAGE ROOM, FPOTUS’s residential suite, Pine Hall, the ‘45 Office’ and other spaces within the PREMISES are not currently authorized locations for the storage of classified information or [national defense information, or NDI].

“Similarly, based upon this investigation, I do not believe that any spaces within the PREMISES have been authorized for the storage of classified information at least since the end of FPOTUS’s Presidential Administration on January 20, 2021.”

After more redactions, the affidavit concludes:

Based on the foregoing facts and circumstances, I submit that probable cause exists to believe that evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed … will be found at the PREMISES.

“Further, I submit that this affidavit supports probable cause for a warrant to search the PREMISES described in Attachment A and seize the items described in Attachment B.”

Affidavit details probable cause

The affidavit as released is of course full of redactions, across its 38 pages. But it reveals some interesting nuggets about the search, including that the Department of Justice and FBI had “probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction” would be found at Mar-a-Lago.

In another interesting section … the affidavit says that on 9 February 2022, the DoJ leaned that a preliminary review of 15 boxes taken to Mar-a-Lago “indicated that they contained ‘newspapers, magazines, printed news articles, photos, miscellaneous print-outs, notes, presidential correspondence, personal and post-presidential records, and ‘a lot of classified records’.

“Of most significant concern was that highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly [sic] identified.”

The affidavit reproduces a Trump statement after the issue became public, and then … is extensively redacted. The redacted passage is a chronological retelling of how the issue developed.

The next significant un-redacted passage contains the news that Trump’s own notes were included in the materials in question. It reads as follows:

“From May 16-18, 2022, FBI agents conducted a preliminary review of the FIFTEEN BOXES provided to NARA and identified documents with classification markings in fourteen of the FIFTEEN BOXES. A preliminary triage of the documents with classification markings revealed the following approximate numbers: 184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET. Further, the FBI agents observed markings reflecting the following compartments/dissemination controls: HCS, FISA, ORCON, NOFORN, and SI.

“Based on my training and experience, I know that documents classified at these levels typically contain NDI. Several of the documents also contained what appears to be FPOTUS’s [Trump’s] handwritten notes.

The identity of the FBI agent who filed the affidavit for the Mar-a-Lago search is of course redacted. He or she describes himself or herself as “a Special Agent with the FBI assigned to the Washington Field Office”, trained “at the FBI Academy located at Quantico, Virginia, specific to counterintelligence and espionage investigations”.

“Based on my experience and training,” the agent writes, “I am familiar with efforts used to unlawfully collect, retain, and disseminate sensitive government information, including classified” information.

The agent details the origins of the investigation and the documents sought, which we know much about, and writes: “The FBI’s investigation has established that documents bearing classification markings, which appear to contain National Defense Information (NDI), were among the materials contained in the FIFTEEN BOXES and were stored at the PREMISES in an unauthorized location.

“Further, there is probable cause to believe that additional documents that contain classified NDI or that are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at the PREMISES. There is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at the PREMISES.”

The agent adds: “Based upon the following facts, there is probable cause to believe that the locations to be searched at the PREMISES contain evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed.”

The affidavit is now out. It is here.

DoJ: Affidavit would be ‘roadmap for obstruction’

Speaking of proposed redactions to the affidavit concerning the Mar-a-Lago search … here’s a screengrab of what has been filed today, and quoted in my previous post.

A shot of the DoJ paperwork quoting from the affidavit.
A shot of the DoJ paperwork quoting from the affidavit. Photograph: Court Listener

The document as filed and released continues:

Although the public is now aware that the government executed a search warrant at the premises owned by the former President and seized documents marked as classified, the affidavit is replete with further details that would provide a roadmap for anyone intent on obstructing the investigation.

“Maximizing the Government’s access to untainted facts · increases its ability to make a fully-informed prosecutive decision” … For example …

… and then we have many more black lines.

The paperwork just released, containing portions of the affidavit, is as predicted heavily redacted.

The document says: “Information in the affidavit could be used to identify many, if not all, of these witnesses. For example” – which is followed by a long redacted passage.

The document then adds: “If witnesses’ identities are exposed, they could be subjected to harms including retaliation, intimidation, or harassment, and even threats to their physical safety. As the court has already noted, ‘these concerns are not hypothetical in this case’.”

Another redacted passage follows, then the following text appears:

“Meanwhile, FBI agents who have been publicly identified in connection with this investigation have received repeated threats of violence from members of the public. Exposure of witnesses’ identities would likely erode their trust in the government’s investigation, and it would almost certainly chill other potential witnesses from coming forward in this investigation and others.”

Justice department files redacted Mar-a-Lago search affidavit

The justice department has filed the affidavit justifying the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, a day after a federal magistrate judge ordered its release.

The document has been redacted, but could offer details of the alleged crimes that brought the FBI to Donald Trump’s Florida resort earlier this month and opened up yet another legal front for the embattled former president.

You can read documents concerning the affidavit here.

We have the order to unseal the affidavit used in the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, but not the redacted affidavit itself, yet.

Ramon Antonio Vargas

An expectant Louisiana woman who is carrying a skull-less fetus that would die almost immediately after birth has cemented plans to travel to North Carolina to terminate her pregnancy after her local medical provider dithered on performing the procedure, citing fear that the state’s abortion ban outlawed it.

Standing on the steps of Louisiana’s Capitol building in her hometown of Baton Rouge, Nancy Davis, 36, announced this morning that her grim trip would be next week, financed by more than $30,000 in donations raised by an online GoFundMe campaign launched after she went public with her plight earlier this month.

Her lawyer, the prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, called on Louisiana’s lawmakers to at least clarify the wording of their abortion ban – if not repeal it altogether – to prevent anyone else from enduring what Davis and her family had during the last several weeks.

The state’s governor, John Bel Edwards, should call a special legislative session in advance of the regular one scheduled to begin in April of next year to do that if necessary, Crump said.

“Louisiana lawmakers inflicted unspeakable pain, emotional damage and physical risk upon this beautiful mother,” Crump said, gesturing at Davis, who was accompanied by her partner Shedric Cole, their young daughter and her two stepchildren.

“They replaced care with confusion, privacy with politics and options with ideology.

“Ms Davis was among the first women to be caught in this crosshairs of confusion due to Louisiana’s rush to restrict abortion. But she will hardly be the last.”

Here’s more on the story:

Joe Biden has just been asked if he thinks national security might have been compromised at Mar-a-Lago while Donald Trump was storing classified documents there.

The president’s answer, per the wire services and the pool reporter: “We’ll let the justice department determine that.”

Still waiting for the release of the redacted affidavit behind the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, which is due by noon.





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