The U.S. Department of Justice said on Friday it was investigating former President Donald Trump for removing White House records because it believed he illegally kept documents, including some related to gathering intelligence information and government sources — one of the country’s best kept secrets.
The heavily redacted affidavit on government documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, released Friday, included some new details, although it revealed no major revelations.
Nonetheless, the affidavit may help explain why the Justice Department sought court approval for a search in the Florida resort town on Aug. 8.
The FBI search marked a significant escalation in one of the many federal and state investigations Trump has faced since his administration and in the private sector.
The Republican ex-president has suggested running for the White House again. He called the search politically motivated, and on Friday he again described the court-authorized search as a “burglary.”
The FBI action was part of a federal investigation into whether Trump illegally removed documents when he left office in January 2021 after losing the presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden and whether he was attempting to obstruct the government’s investigation.
According to the document released Friday, an unidentified FBI agent said the FBI reviewed and identified 184 documents with “classification marks” containing “national defense information” after Trump returned 15 boxes of government records to the US National Archives in January.
The agent who wrote the affidavit said that after reviewing the first batch of records, the FBI determined that there was probable reason to believe there were other documents at Mar-a-Lago located.
“There is also probable reason to believe evidence of disability will be found at the site,” the agent added.
The Justice Department said Friday in a separate batch of unsealed records that it has “a significant number of civilian witnesses” helping with its investigation, a rare disclosure for an investigation at such an early stage.
Like many of the 32-page affidavits, many pages in these other unsealed records were redacted.
Trump complained on social media on Friday that the affidavit had been “heavily edited,” and he asked the judge in the case to withdraw without providing an apparent basis — a request Trump’s legal team has not officially made to the court Has.
“Judge Bruce Reinhart should NEVER have allowed my home to be broken into,” Trump wrote.
The recordings, unsealed on Friday, also showed Trump’s attorneys attempting to persuade the Justice Department not to conduct a criminal investigation, arguing that Trump had the authority to release documents.
In one section, it references an article published in May by former Trump administration official Kash Patel, who claimed media reports of the National Archives identifying classified material at Mar-a-Lago were “misleading.”
Brandon Fox, a former federal prosecutor now with Jenner and Block, said he believes the references to Trump’s claims about the documents’ release are significant, although much of the material has been redacted.
“They are probably pointing to the evidence that the DOJ believes shows that Mr. Trump did not declassify the documents,” he told Reuters.
The newly released records also showed Trump’s attorneys trying to downplay the Justice Department’s concerns about the records.
“Any attempt to impose criminal liability on a president or former president affecting his actions in relation to classified documents would imply serious constitutional problems of separation of powers,” Trump’s attorney Evan Corcoran wrote in a May 25 letter to the leader of the Justice Department of Counterintelligence.
“Furthermore, the primary criminal law governing the unauthorized removal and preservation of classified documents or material does not apply to the President,” he added.
The FBI agent said a preliminary review of the records obtained by the archive in the 15 boxes, conducted between May 16 and 18, found 184 “unique documents” marked as classified. Of these, 67 were marked as “confidential”, 92 as “secret” and 25 as “top secret”.
Other defense-related records, meanwhile, included references to things like confidential sources that help the United States gather intelligence, details of how the US conducts foreign surveillance, and information it gathers using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — the law that protects the domestic established the country’s surveillance program.
The agent added that there was a likely reason to search a number of rooms in Mar-a-Lago, including a storage room and Trump’s travel suit, as well as “Pine Hall” and the “45 Office.”
Democratic Senator Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Friday’s documents underscore the need for the panel to receive a bipartisan “damage assessment of any national security threat from misuse” of the information.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/trump-papers-included-material-on-government-sources-intelligence-gathering-us-justice-dept-41940556.html Trump papers contained material on government sources, intelligence gathering – US Department of Justice