If you have been hiding under a rock, authorities discovered 184 documents bearing classified information in boxes that Donald Trump returned to national archives representatives this past January — and it has been whirlwind drama ever since!
This prompted investigators to seek a search warrant of the former president’s Florida estate to uncover more top-secret records, per an FBI affidavit that was unsealed on Friday.
FBI Says Donald Trump Stored Top Secret Documents On National Defense And Spies At His Home In Mar-A-Lago
“There is a probable cause to believe that additional documents that contain classified [national defense information] or that are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at the premises,” an FBI agent wrote in the Aug. 5 affidavit. “There is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at the premises.”
Many bystanders hope that the sworn statement prepared by the FBI in support of their warrant request could shed light on the Department of Justice probe into Trump and the surprise search of his Mar-a-Lago club earlier this month.
Judge Bruce E. Reinhart with the US District Court for Southern Florida had ordered on Thursday that the document was released with some redactions in order to protect the identities of witnesses and law enforcement — given the public’s interest —- as well as the strategies, direction, scope, sources, and methods of the ongoing investigation.
The affidavit was unsealed with extensive redactions throughout, however, it did reveal a more transparent timeline of the probe into Trump and his handling of classified documents, as well as the nature of the top secret information.
Trump is under investigation for taking top secret documents with him when he left the White House and then failing to return them when requested.
The FBI began investigating after officials with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) referred the matter to them on Feb. 9 of this year. That came after NARA received 15 boxes of records from Trump at Mar-a-Lago that contained “highly classified documents intermingled with other records.”
The FBI revealed they began an investigation into how the documents came to be removed from the White House and stored at Mar-a-Lago and whether any others remained there.
In a section titled “Boxes Containing Documents Were Transported from the White House to Mar-a-Lago,” the affidavit also mentions a CBS Miami news article from Jan. 18, 2021, noting that at least two moving trucks were spotted at Mar-a-Lago in the final days of Trump’s presidency.
NARA officials said they had been making continued requests to Trump’s representatives since May 6, 2021, to have presidential records returned. This went on for at least six months.
When they did finally receive the 15 boxes in January, officials told the FBI 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.””
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“Of most significant concern,” the NARA officials said, “was that highly classified records were unfolded, intermixed with other records and otherwise unproperly [sic] identified.”
And in May, when the FBI reviewed these boxes, they identified 184 classified documents in 14 of the 15 boxes, each marked with varying levels of classification.
Some 67 of the documents were marked as confidential, 92 were marked as secret, and 25 were marked as top secret. These three levels of classification refer to documents that could reasonably result in damage to US national security, with the latter two classifications denoting documents that could cause “serious” and “exceptionally grave” damage.
They also discovered documents that were marked because they concerned intelligence gathering, along with some that involved monitoring foreign governments and others that were derived from “cladestine human sources,” or undercover spies.
Trump’s handwritten notes were also among the documents.
As of June 8 of this year, DOJ lawyers wrote to Trump’s lawyers to once again reiterate that Mar-a-Lago was not an authorized storage location for such classified information as the documents that had been removed from the White House.
“They have not been handled in an appropriate manner or stored in an appropriate location,” they wrote. “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 further notice.”
Trump’s lawyers confirmed receipt of that request the next day.
The FBI said in the affidavit that they believed the documents could be located in a storage room at Mar-a-Lago, along with Trump’s residential suite, his office, the Pine Hall antechamber, and “other spaces.”
“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,” wrote the FBI special agent, whose name was redacted .
Two documents unsealed this month — a search warrant and an FBI property receipt — revealed that the former president is being investigated by the Department of Justice for potential violations of the Espionage Act, mishandling government documents, and obstruction of justice.
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FBI agents removed 11 sets of classified documents, including some marked with the highest level of government classification, per the unsealed FBI receipt that detailed the items taken from the Trump estate during their subsequent Aug. 8 search. Other items seized included photos, the executive clemency grant to Trump ally Roger Stone, and a document with information on French President Emmanuel Macron.
In other documents unsealed on Friday related to the motion to release the FBI affidavit, the DOJ asked for that document to be redacted to “protect the safety of multiple civilian witnesses whose information was included throughout the affidavit and contributed to the finding of probable cause, as well as the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”
The DOJ warned that witnesses could be “subjected to harms including retaliation, intimidation, or harassment, and even threats to their physical safety,” noted that FBI agents who had already been identified in the proceedings had received violent threats, and said,
“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 involved.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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