Trump hid secret documents with magazines, other items: FBI

According to an FBI affidavit made public on Friday, 14 out of the 15 boxes discovered from former president Donald Trump’s Florida resort early this year included classified materials, many of them top secret, mixed in with random newspapers, magazines, and personal letters.

According to court documents outlining the FBI’s justification for investigating Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home this month, there was no area designated for the storage of sensitive data there, including “probable cause to think that evidence of obstruction will be located.”

The 32-page affidavit is the most thorough account to date of the federal papers kept at Mar-a-Lago even after Trump departed the White House. It is highly redacted to protect the safety of witnesses, law enforcement personnel, and “the integrity of the current investigation.” It also highlights how serious the government’s worries were that the records were there unlawfully.

The letter makes it plain how Trump is now in legal danger as he prepares to run for president again in 2024 due to the careless retention of top-secret government information and the apparent failure to protect them despite months of pleas from American authorities.

On the first page of the document, an FBI agent stated, “The government is pursuing a criminal investigation into the inappropriate removal and storage of classified material in prohibited spaces, as well as the unlawful hiding or removal of government records.”

Federal agents are looking into possible violations of a number of laws, including one that regulates gathering, distributing, or losing defense material under the Espionage Act, according to documents that have previously been made public. The other laws cover the destruction, alteration, or fabrication of records in federal investigations as well as their concealment, mutilation, or removal.

Trump has consistently asserted that he fully cooperated with government officials despite abundant evidence to the contrary. Additionally, he has won over Republicans by portraying the investigation as a politically driven witch hunt designed to hurt his chances of winning reelection. On his social media page on Friday, he reiterated that theme and stated that he and his representatives had a tight working relationship with the FBI and “GAVE THEM MUCH.”

The affidavit covers a different group of 15 boxes that the National Archives and Materials Administration removed from the house in January rather than the 11 sets of classified records that were found during the Aug. 8 search at Mar-a-Lago. According to the affidavit, the Archives sent the case to the Justice Department after discovering “a lot” of classified information.

A judge was persuaded by the affidavit that a search of Mar-a-Lago was required because of the extremely sensitive material discovered in those 15 boxes. According to the affidavit, 25 of the 184 papers with classification markings were classified as top secret. Some of them had distinctive markings that indicated they contained information obtained from extremely private human sources or from the gathering of electronic “signals” permitted by a special intelligence court.

The affidavit cites a letter from the Archives and claims that some of those classified materials were combined with other documents, such as newspapers, periodicals, and various printouts.

Former senior CIA official and “The Recruiter” author Douglas London “argued that this demonstrated Trump’s disregard for regulations. “One of the classified rules is to avoid combining classified and unclassified material to prevent errors or mishaps, “added he.

The affidavit demonstrates how agents were given permission to examine a substantial portion of Mar-a-Lago, including Trump’s official “45 Office,” storage spaces, and any other locations where boxes or documents might have been kept. They did not advocate examining locations on the property that Mar-a-Lago members utilize or rent out, including exclusive guest suites.

To get the warrant to search Trump’s property, the FBI gave the judge the affidavit, or sworn declaration. Agents explain their reasoning for wanting to search a specific area and why they think it’s likely they will find evidence of a potential crime there in affidavits, which often contain crucial information about an investigation.

Normally, the materials are kept under seal while an inquiry is ongoing. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the agency to provide a redacted version of the affidavit by Friday in recognition of the unprecedented public interest in the inquiry on Thursday.

To “protect the safety and privacy of a considerable number of civilian witnesses, in addition to law enforcement employees, as well as to protect the integrity of the current investigation,” Justice Department officials stated in a second document that was released on Friday.

It is impossible to determine the breadth of the inquiry or where it might be going because the second half of the affidavit is nearly entirely redacted. It doesn’t specify who might be the subject of an investigation, and it doesn’t answer fundamental issues like why top-secret materials were taken to Mar-a-Lago after the president’s term even though classified information needs to be stored in a certain manner.

A further indication of the GOP’s unwillingness to publicly break with the former president, whose hold on the party is still strong during the midterm election season, was the fact that Trump’s Republican friends in Congress were virtually silent as the affidavit came to light on Friday. Both parties have sought more details on the search, and after Congress reconvenes from its summer break, members want briefings from the Justice Department and FBI.

The affidavit shows that although Trump’s spokesperson called the probe “pure politics,” it wasn’t the first time federal law enforcement has expressed concerns about the records. For instance, the senior counterintelligence official for the Justice Department paid a visit to Mar-a-Lago last spring to evaluate how the materials were kept.

Excerpts from a letter written by a Justice Department official to a Trump lawyer on June 8 reminding him that Mar-a-Lago lacks a secure area approved to keep classified data are included in the affidavit. In addition, the official asked that the boxes that were transported from the White House to Mar-a-Lago “be retained in that room in their current form until further notice.” The official also asked that the room at the estate where the documents had been held be secured.

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