Donald Trump took classified documents – some marked top secret – home to his Mar-a-Lago residence, an FBI affidavit has revealed.
The 32-page document, even in its redacted form, contains additional details about an ongoing criminal investigation into Mr Trump as he lays the groundwork for another presidential run.
Released by the US Justice Department, it highlights the amount of sensitive government documents that Mr Trump had taken to Mar-a-Lago and FBI concerns that the records were retained illegally.
While there are a number of details relating to the investigation, officials also redacted large chunks to protect the identity of witnesses and to avoid revealing sensitive investigative tactics.
“The government is conducting a criminal investigation concerning the improper removal and storage of classified information in unauthorised spaces, as well as the unlawful concealment or removal of government records,” an FBI agent wrote on the first page of the affidavit in seeking a judge’s permission for a warrant to search the property
The affidavit does not provide new details about the 11 sets of classified records recovered during the 8 August search at Mar-a-Lago.
However, it described a separate batch of 15 boxes that the National Archives and Records Administration received from the home in January – a year after he had left the White House.
In those boxes, according to the affidavit, officials located 184 documents bearing classification markings, including 67 marked as confidential, 92 secret and 25 top secret.
Agents who inspected the boxes found markings related to information provided by confidential human sources as well as information related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The agent said the Justice Department had reason to believe there were more such records that had not been returned to the government still sitting inside Mr Trump’s home.
The FBI submitted the affidavit to a judge so it could obtain a warrant to search Mr Trump’s property on 8 August.
Analysis: Why did Trump have these documents?
It was a handover of documents from Donald Trump’s possession to the National Archives eight months ago which proved to be key in the FBI’s decision to raid Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home this month.
Back in January, after months of pressure, Mr Trump’s team had handed over 15 boxes of documents.
Teams at the National Archives examined the boxes and discovered 700 pages of classified documents. They referred the case to the Justice Department and an investigation was launched.
It’s now been revealed, from the non-redacted parts of the newly released affidavit, that within the 15 boxes the FBI found 184 documents bearing several different classification markings.
Sixty-seven were marked as confidential, 92 as secret and 25 as top secret. A top secret document is one that would, insiders say, cause exceptionally grave damage to national security.
According to the affidavit, witnesses said there may be more presidential material at Mar-a-Lago.
This witness testimony, coupled with examination of seized CCTV footage from Mar-a-Lago allegedly showing documents being moved around, prompted the 8 August raid.
But why did Mr Trump have these documents? What was his intention for taking them? What will the political fallout be in a nation so deeply divided? Many questions remain.
Mr Trump reacted on social media, writing: “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!”
A separate document – a Memorandum of Law – explaining the need for redactions to the affidavit, says “revealing this information could severely disadvantage the government as it seeks further information from witnesses… These concerns are particularly compelling in this case… In short, the government has well founded concerns that steps may be taken to frustrate or otherwise interfere with this investigation if facts in the affidavit were prematurely disclosed”.
And referencing the witnesses the FBI is relying on, the Memorandum of Law says: “If witnesses’ identities are exposed they could be subjected to harms including retaliation, intimidation or harassment and even threats to their physical safety… These concerns are not hypothetical in this case.”
The search warrant affidavit is not proof of a crime, but rather represents the Justice Department’s belief that it has probable cause that a crime has been committed.