US Justice Department releases redacted Mar-a-Lago search document

FBI investigation began after referral from government agency, search warrant affidavit reveals.

US Justice Department releases redacted Mar-a-Lago search document

The US Department of Justice on Friday unsealed a heavily redacted version of the document that led to the FBI search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence earlier this month.

The search warrant affidavit offers new glances into the ongoing federal investigation, while blacking out large swathes of information that federal prosecutors maintain could jeopardize the life and safety of relevant individuals and the investigation itself.

An FBI agent whose identity was not disclosed said the federal government was "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."

The affidavit notes that the inquiry began upon a Feb. 9 referral from the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The NARA informed the Justice Department that it had retrieved 15 boxes of classified documents mixed in with other official records from Mar-a-Lago in January. After the Justice Department was notified, the FBI opened a probe into how the records were removed from the White House and stored at the ex-presidential estate and beach club.

In all, 184 classified documents were included in the January tranche, including some that appeared to include Trump's handwritten notes on them, with 25 documents marked "top secret," 92 "secret," and 67 "confidential."

Some of the documents included markings that indicate they included information on clandestine human sources, special intelligence and information covered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Other documents bore markings indicating they are not to be seen by foreign nationals.

"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," the agent wrote, using an acronym to refer to the former president of the United States.

The 32-page affidavit stated there was "probable cause" to believe that other classified information, including on national defense, remained at Mar-a-Lago, as well as evidence of obstruction of justice.

The FBI seized 11 sets of classified information during its Aug. 8 raid, as well as other official government records, according to court documents.

The affidavit in its complete form convinced Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart to authorize the FBI's search.

It includes a letter from Trump attorney Evan Corcoran to the Justice Department that asked the department to consider certain "principles" it said applied to the case, including their claim that the president "has absolute authority to declassify documents."

US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Juan Antonio Gonzalez said in a supporting document that the redactions to the search warrant affidavit were "narrowly tailored" to protect the identities of witnesses and law enforcement personnel, the integrity of the ongoing investigation, and ensure compliance with federal law.

Gonzalez further said there are a "significant number of civilian witnesses" involved in the investigation.

Reinhart, the judge overseeing the case, gave the Justice Department until noon on Friday to unseal the redacted affidavit, overriding the department's efforts to keep the entire document under wraps while the investigation continues.