by Eric Tucker
WASHINGTON (AP) — Fourteen of the 15 boxes recovered from former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate earlier this year contained classified documents, many of them top secret, mixed with miscellaneous newspapers, magazines and personal correspondence. , according to an FBI affidavit released Friday.
No location at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was authorized for the storage of classified materials, according to court papers that this month determined the FBI’s justification for a search of the property, including “probable reason to believe that That the evidence of the obstacle would be “found.”
The 32-page affidavit – heavily edited to protect witnesses and law enforcement officials and protect the “integrity of the ongoing investigation” – came long after Trump called for government records being stored at Mar-a-Lago. Provides the most detailed description of the date. left the White House. It also reflected the seriousness of the government’s concerns that the documents were illegal.
The document explains how the haphazard retention of top-secret government records, and the failure to return them despite months of efforts by US officials to get them back, has exposed Trump to new legal woes, just as he faces another lay the groundwork for a potential presidency. in 2024.
“The government is conducting a criminal investigation regarding the improper removal and storage of classified information in unauthorized locations as well as the illegal concealment or deletion of government records,” the FBI agent wrote on the front page of the affidavit seeking the judge’s permission. ” For warrant of search of property.
Previously made public documents show federal agents are investigating possible violations of three federal laws, including one that governs the collection, transmission or loss of defense information under the Espionage Act. Other statutes address the concealment, mutilation or deletion of records and the destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.
Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Trump has long insisted he cooperated fully with government officials. And he has mobilized Republicans behind him by portraying the discovery as a politically motivated witch hunt, aimed at hurting his reelection prospects. He reiterated that refrain on his social media site on Friday, saying he and his representatives had a close relationship with the FBI and “gave them a lot.”
The affidavit does not provide new details about the 11 sets of classified records recovered during the 8 August search at Mar-a-Lago, but instead pertains to a separate batch of 15 boxes that the National Archives and Records Administration has issued. Recovered from home in January. According to the affidavit, the National Archives referred the case to the Justice Department, indicating that a review showed “a lot” of classified material.
The affidavit argued that the search at Mar-a-Lago was necessary because highly sensitive material was found in boxes recovered by the National Archives. The affidavit said that of the 184 documents marked as classified, 25 were at the top secret level. Some had special markings that suggested they contained information from highly sensitive human sources or a collection of electronic “signals” authorized by a special intelligence court.
Citing a letter from the archives, the affidavit said some of those classified records were mixed with other documents, including newspapers, magazines and miscellaneous print-outs.
Douglas London, a former senior CIA official and author of “The Recruiter,” said this reflects Trump’s lack of respect for control. “One of the rules of classifieds is that you don’t mix classified and unclassified, so there’s no mistake or accident,” he said.
The affidavit reveals how agents were able to find a large contingent of Mar-a-Lago, including Trump’s official post-presidential “45 Office,” storage rooms and all other areas where boxes or documents might be stored. was authorized to. They did not offer search areas of property used or rented by Mar-a-Largo members, such as private guest suites.
The document states that no location in Mar-a-Lago had been authorized for the storage of classified information since at least the end of Trump’s term.
The FBI submits an affidavit, or affidavit, to a judge in order to obtain a warrant to search Trump’s assets. Affidavits usually contain important information about an investigation, in which agents justify why they want to search a particular property and believe they will find evidence of a possible crime there. is likely to.
Affidavits regularly remain sealed pending investigation. But in acknowledgment of the extraordinary public interest in the investigation, US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart on Thursday ordered the department to make public a revised version of the affidavit by Friday.
In a separate document closed on Friday, Justice Department officials reported that “in addition to law enforcement personnel, certain information may be stored to protect the privacy and confidentiality of a significant number of civilian witnesses, as well as protect the integrity of It was necessary to revise the ongoing investigation. ”
The second part of the affidavit has been almost completely revised, making it impossible to understand the scope of the investigation or where it could lead. It does not identify anyone by name who may be the subject of the investigation and does not answer key questions, such as why top secret documents were taken to Mar-a-Lago at the end of the president’s term. Gaya, even though the government regards them as presidential records that belong to the National Archives and require special storage.
It also doesn’t include details about negotiations between Trump’s representatives and the Justice Department over months of searches, including a summons in May for the record and a visit to the property in June by the department’s top counterintelligence officer. The back-and-forth culminated in an August 8 search in which agents retrieved 11 sets of classified records.
Still, Friday’s unsealed document provides insight into the arguments of the Trump legal team, as the case is expected to proceed. Trump’s lawyer M. Ivan Corcoran in which he claims a president has “absolute authority” to declassify documents and that “presidential actions that involve classified documents are not subject to criminal sanction.”
Longtime national security attorney Mark Zaid, who has criticized Trump for his handling of classified information, said the letter was “clearly wrong” to declare Trump “anything and everything.”
“There are few legal, technical defenses in the form of certain provisions of the Espionage Act as to whether it would apply to the president,” Zaid said. “But some of those provisions make no distinction that would enhance the defense.”
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in New York and Noman Merchant and Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.
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