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Old 27-08-22, 08:28   #30
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Update re: TRUMP STOLE Top SECRET Material & Special Master Ruling Won't Save Him

TRUMPS' Legal Battles: FBI Sought National Defense Documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Affidavit Shows

Extensively redacted affidavit used to justify the search of the ex-president’s Florida resort was unsealed on Friday

The Guardian UK 27 AUG 2022

The FBI searched Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida this month after speaking to a significant number of witnesses and finding probable cause that national defense information and evidence of obstruction existed at the former president’s property, according to newly unsealed court filings on Friday.

The details contained in the affidavit used to secure a warrant to search Mar-a-Lago – partially redacted to protect the ongoing criminal investigation into Trump’s unauthorized retention of government secrets – offered the clearest insight yet into the basis for the FBI’s seeking permission to search the resort.

“There is probable cause to believe that additional documents that contain classified NDI or that are presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at the premises. There is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found,” it said.

The affidavit made the case that the FBI needed to forcibly retrieve the United States government’s most sensitive secrets, especially after it came to suspect Trump and his team were holding on to classified documents despite repeated efforts – including with a subpoena – to secure their return.

Most pressing, according to the affidavit, was that the FBI had identified probable cause that documents containing national defense information were scattered across Mar-a-Lago, potentially jeopardizing intelligence gathering and revealing the identities of human clandestine sources.

The specific mentions of the most private areas at Mar-a-Lago – for instance Pine Hall, which is not particularly widely known – suggests the FBI had close operational knowledge from a source about where the documents were being kept and potentially being moved around the resort.

While the exact origin of that information appears to have been kept redacted, in an accompanying legal memo explaining its redactions, the justice department revealed for the first time that the FBI had interviewed a “significant number of civilian witnesses” before seeking the warrant.

The affidavit also mentioned an additional significant reason for needing the document to initially be kept under seal: “The FBI has not yet identified all potential criminal confederates and not located all evidence related to its investigation.”

In making the case that the FBI needed to search Mar-a-Lago, the affidavit – produced by an FBI agent working in the bureau’s Washington field office – also showed how Trump had previously retained government secrets at Mar-a-Lago after he was no longer president.

The FBI noted that after Trump finally returned around a dozen boxes of materials to the National Archives this year, an FBI triage found 184 unique classified documents, including 25 marked top secret, 92 marked secret, 67 marked confidential, and some with Trump’s distinctive handwriting.

The documents also included some with markings like “SI” for special intelligence, “HCS” for intelligence from human clandestine sources, “NOFORN”, for “Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals”, “FISA” for the “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act”, and “ORCON”, which restricts non-US dissemination.

“Of most significant concern was that highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly [sic] identified,” it warned.

According to the affidavit, the FBI essentially concluded that Mar-a-Lago was the scene of potential violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice, and a statute that criminalizes the unauthorized removal or retention of government records more generally.

The affidavit became public after federal Judge Bruce Reinhart, who approved the warrant and is overseeing the case, ordered the justice department to submit the redacted version before noon, leading to a tense and breathless wait for the court in West Palm Beach to unseal the documents.

Trump Was Unhappy About The Affidavit.

In a statement on his social media website, Trump, in strident language that is typical to him, blasted the release of the document. He called it a “total public relations subterfuge” by the FBI and the justice department and accused the judge of having personal animosity towards him.

“WITCH HUNT!!!” the former president said in a subsequent post, using one of the most common phrases he deploys to portray himself as the victim of a hostile conspiracy, and he again described the FBI search as a “break-in”.

President Joe Biden weighed in after being asked if it was ever appropriate for a president to bring home classified material, saying that “it depends on the document and it depends on how secure” the location was. He had a “completely secure” site at his home and on Friday was taking home a copy of his daily intelligence briefing, he said, but those records would later be returned to the military.

The partial release of the affidavit used for the Mar-a-Lago search is a significant juncture for the justice department, which had opposed unsealing any part of the affidavit until it was overruled by Reinhart, and the attorney general, Merrick Garland, who personally approved the warrant after days of deliberations.

The justice department had originally opposed unsealing the affidavit at all and filed a redacted version only after being forced by Reinhart last week.

Trump had indicated previously that he had supported unsealing the affidavit but his lawyers never filed a formal motion to that effect, instead leaving the effort to a coalition of media outlets that pushed to have the affidavit become public.

Trump has since filed a separate motion to have a so-called special master appointed to determine what seized materials prosecutors can use as evidence in the investigation. The motion also aims to force the justice department to provide a more detailed list of what was retrieved by the FBI.

Trump’s lawyers said their motion should be granted because the redacted affidavit “provides almost no information that would allow [Trump] to understand why the raid took place, or what was taken from his home. The few lines that are unredacted raise more questions than answers.”

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