A federal court in Florida unsealed a search warrant affidavit for former President Donald Trump’s residence Friday, which was heavily redacted. Nevertheless, both sides of the political aisle reacted strongly to the document, which has become the focus of a major investigation.
Here’s what the affidavit included – and didn’t.
1. Lots of Redactions
In the 38-page document, approximately 20 pages were redacted in some way or another. The information on twenty-four pages was blacked out in some way. Given the Justice Department’s argument about the case’s sensitivity, significant redactions were expected. Due to premature publication by disclosing the contents of this affidavit and related documents, the continuing investigation may suffer greatly. According to the Justice Department, it may be severely compromised by the criminal parties fleeing, destroying evidence (both electronically and otherwise), changing behavior patterns, and informing criminal confederates.
2. Lots of pages
The length of the affidavit was also noteworthy. In contrast to the 38-page the document the FBI submitted to Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the average search warrant affidavit from federal law enforcement is significantly shorter.
The length still raises questions for Mark W. Smith, a professor at the Ave Maria School of Law and senior fellow at The King’s College. The probable cause affidavit’s length is not unprecedented, but it is unusual. Often, the more explanation an attorney must provide in writing translates into a longer legal document and usually indicates a weaker position. As a result of referencing multiple federal statutes and discussing confidential designations in detail, the document appears to be an educational tool for the public or Florida’s federal courts. According to other legal experts, the warrant’s length may be due to extra care since an ex-president’s home was to be raided.
3. Several other classified documents were cited in Trump’s affidavit
Nearly 200 documents with classified markings that Trump previously handed over are referenced in the affidavit. A trove of classified documents was found in 15 boxes of documents Trump gave earlier this year to the National Archives and Records Administration.
After preliminary triage of the classification marked documents, the following approximate numbers emerged: 184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents with CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents with SECRET, and 25 documents with TOP SECRET markings, according to the affidavit.
Trump’s legal team argues that the former president had the authority to declassify any and all documents. According to them, he ordered the declassification of any documents found at Mar-a-Lago. The possession of sensitive national security information can be prosecuted under specific laws, regardless of whether that information is classified. It would be unprecedented to prosecute a former president for such an offense.
4. According to the Justice Department, there was “probable cause” for “obstruction.”
Aside from suspicions that more classified documents remain at Mar-a-Lago, the Justice Department believes it can find evidence that Trump obstructed investigations.
It is also probable that additional documents containing classified NDI or Presidential records subject to record retention requirements are currently at the premises. It is likely that the premises will also reveal evidence of obstruction.
Neither the Justice Department nor the FBI has provided details about how or when Trump may have obstructed. In recent years, other federal investigations have examined Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice. The president’s constitutional authority to classify and declassify documents is unfettered, Trump lawyer M. Evan Cocoran’s letter cited in the affidavit.
5. Trump reacts Friday, Trump took aim at the Justice Department on his “Truth Social” social media network. The investigation was called a “witch hunt” by him. According to a series of posts, the affidavit was heavily redacted. Adding there was no mention of ‘Nuclear,’ and that it was a total “public relations subterfuge” by the FBI & DOJ or our close working relationship regarding document turnover -“WE GAVE THEM MUCH,” Trump said. Judge Reinhart should “NEVER” have allowed the “Break-In of my home.”