On Friday, August 12, 2021, the United States District Court for the Southern District Court of Florida unsealed the Department of Justice Search Warrant and the Return of Service and Inventory executed on August 8 at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. A link to review the search warrant is here:
It was Federal Judge Bruce Reinhart who approved the search warrant on August 5 at 12:12 p.m., three days before the search took place. The search had to be completed by August 19, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The warrant says that within the Mar-a-Lago estate, the places that could be searched included “45 Office,” and “all storage rooms, and all other rooms or areas within the premises used or available to be used by FPOTUS and his staff and in which boxes or documents could be stored, including all structures or buildings on the estate.”
The judge authorized federal agents to gather any documents with classification markings as well as information about how “national defense information or classified material” had been stored and handled. The judge also gave agents leeway to collect any other government records created between the day Trump took office on Jan. 20, 2017 and when he left four years later that might be evidence of violations of the Espionage Act or other document-related crimes under investigation.
Attachment B of the search warrant shows what was to be seized and says federal agents were to gather evidence that include physical documents with classification markings, and the containers or boxes those documents were located in, as well as other containers that were stored or found together with those documents. They also were to seize “information, including communications in any form, regarding the retrieval, storage, or transmission of national defense information or classified material.” The document also called for seizure of any presidential or government records and any evidence of alteration or destruction of those records or other classified documents.
On Thursday, August 11, Attorney General Merrick Garland held a press conference and announced that he authorized the search warrant. Garland also announced that the DOJ asked the judge to unseal the warrant. Trump said in a posting on social media night that he supported the release of the documents.
WHAT WAS SIEZED
The warrant allows for the seizure of “all physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation of” various aspects of the Espionage Act.
The search warrant says federal agents are investigating potential violations of three different federal laws. The three specific federal criminal laws are:
18 USC 793, which is part of the Espionage Act and makes it a crime to remove or misuse information related to national defense;
18 USC 2071, which makes it a crime to hide, damage, or destroy government records; and
18 USC 1519, which makes it a crime to falsify, destroy, or cover up records to obstruct or interfere with a federal investigation or “proper administration of any matter” under the jurisdiction of an agency.
All three potential offenses cited in the warrant are felony crimes. The obstruction charge carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. The Espionage Act crime has a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and the catch-all offense for destroying government records carries up to three years behind bars.
“The records destruction statute also states that a person found guilty “shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States,” but legal scholars have largely agreed that it’s unlikely that punishment could apply to the presidency, since the Constitution directly spells out what qualifies, or disqualifies, a person for that office.”
A total of 27 boxes were seized. Included in the documents and items seized were 11 sets of documents labeled classified, confidential, secret and top secret. The list of boxes of information seized during the search includes documents that were the US government’s highest top-secret ratings.
“The FBI seized “TS/SCI documents,” which stands for top-secret and sensitive compartmented information, a government label for material gathered through sensitive intelligence sources or methods. The seized records marked “sensitive compartmented information” is a special category meant to protect the nation’s most important secrets that if revealed publicly could cause “exceptionally grave” damage to U.S. interests. In other words, documents were seized that potentially compromise the country’s national security. Federal prosecutors are indicating that they are exploring possible violations of the federal Espionage Act.”
The property receipt also shows the FBI collected other potential presidential records, including the order pardoning Trump ally Roger Stone, a“leatherbound box of documents,” and information about the “President of France.” A binder of photos, a handwritten note, “miscellaneous secret documents” and “miscellaneous confidential documents” were also seized in the search.
Trump’s attorney, Christina Bobb, who was present at Mar-a-Lago when the agents conducted the search, signed two property receipts. One receipt was two pages long and another that is a single page.
The links to quoted news source material are here:
TRUMP CLAIMS ALL DOCUMENTS DECLASSIFIED, NO EVIDENCE OF DECLASSIFICATION
Shortly before the Judge ordered the documents unsealed, Trump issued a statement claiming that the information was declassified. Trump said this:
“Number one, it was all declassified. … Number two, they didn’t need to ‘seize’ anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago. It was in secured storage, with an additional lock put on as per their request.”
The truth is Trump kept possession of the documents despite multiple requests from agencies, including the National Archives, to turn over presidential records in accordance with federal law. The US National Archives and Records Administration “had ongoing communications” with Trump’s representatives “throughout 2021, which resulted in the transfer of 15 boxes to NARA in January 2022,” Archivist David Ferriero wrote in his February 18th letter to House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, which prompted NARA staff to contact the Justice Department and resulted in the investigation that lead to the FBI’s search.
Trump’s supporters are claiming he has the power to declassify documents on his own. That is simply false. While a president can request or initiate a declassification, the original classifying agency “must undergo a process to complete the declassification,” according to former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade.
“While incumbent presidents generally have the power to declassify information, that authority lapses as soon as they leave office and it was not clear if the documents in question have ever been declassified. And even an incumbent’s powers to declassify may be limited regarding secrets dealing with nuclear weapons programs, covert operations and operatives, and some data shared with allies.”
The link to quoted news source material is here:
It was only after archivists began indexing those recovered records that they discovered the boxes contained “classified national security information,” Archivist David Ferriero said in the letter.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, head of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday, August 14, on FACE THE NATION that he has not seen evidence that former President Donald Trump declassified documents that were found by the FBI during a search of his South Florida residence Mar-a-Lago, last week. Schiff said this:
“We should determine, you know, whether there was any effort during the presidency to go through the process of declassification. … I’ve seen no evidence of that, nor have they presented any evidence of that.”
Transcript: Rep. Adam Schiff on “Face the Nation” is here:
TRUMP AND REPUBLICANS ATTACK LAW ENFORCMENT
The execution of the search warrant was immediately attacked by Trump and his Republican allies as a political move by President Joe Biden. Trump himself suggested the search warrant was politically motivated and went so far to advance the baseless conspiracy theory that the FBI agents might have planted evidence. The White House has said that Biden was not even told in advance about the search.
On Sunday August 14, the online news agency The Hill reported in part as follows:
“Trump allies have portrayed the unprecedented as evidence the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) have been weaponized by the Biden administration. Some Republicans have called for the FBI to be defunded, while others have broadcast the notion that agents could come after all Americans, including showing up in their living rooms.
Both Democrats and Republicans took to the Sunday political shows to denounce attacks on the agency, which is reporting an increase in threats to law enforcement agents following the search.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), during an interview with Andrea Mitchell on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” explicitly tied an attempted breach of the FBI’s Cincinnati field office on Thursday to recent GOP rhetoric. The suspect, who was shot and killed by police, was believed to be in Washington, D.C., during the lead-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Klobuchar said this:
“[These are] the kind of things that result when you’ve got a president that attacks law enforcement and attacks the law. … I thought in the old days the Republican Party used to stand with law enforcement. … And I hope some of them do today because this kind of rhetoric is very dangerous to our country. These are career men and women that are simply doing their job.”
A new intelligence bulletin warned of a spike in threats to federal law enforcement following the Mar-a-Lago search, referencing the Cincinnati incident, multiple outlets reported.
On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) echoed Klobuchar’s concerns and said this:
“The reaction of many of my Republican colleagues and those around the former president to attack the FBI over this and endanger FBI agents is just another damaging level of irresponsibility,” Schiff told moderator Margaret Brennan.
Trump himself has repeatedly attacked the FBI since the search, also suggesting an unproven conspiracy that the agency was planting evidence to hurt him politically. … But others in the GOP pushed back against those attacks on Sunday even as they pressed for more information from the FBI and DOJ.
Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on CNN’s “State of the Union” said this:
“The FBI is simply carrying out their responsibilities under the law, a lawful search warrant that a magistrate signed off on … “And they didn’t go in there with FBI raid jackets. … They tried to constrain their behavior carrying out that warrant. … If the GOP is going to be the party of supporting law enforcement, law enforcement includes the FBI.”
Hutchinson provided some defense of members of his party for criticizing the FBI, saying they “see the establishment is going after Donald Trump” and have unanswered questions, but he called on fellow Republicans to “stand with” law enforcement.
Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan separated himself from the heated rhetoric from some in the GOP and said this on ABC’s “This Week”:
“The one side is gonna say that this is just politically motivated and weaponization of the Justice Department, but … they have probable cause to come after him for things that could be really important.”
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OPPOSES UNSEALING SEARCH WARRRANT AFFIDAVIT “TO PROTECT ONGOING INVESTIGATION”
“On Monday, August 15, Justice Department lawyers asked the judge who approved the search warrant to keep the accompanying affidavit under seal, citing a need to protect witnesses and the ongoing investigation. Federal prosecutors responded to inquiries from numerous news organizations to make the affidavit public arguing it should remain sealed “to protect the integrity of an ongoing law enforcement investigation that implicates national security.”
DOJ prosecutors said the affidavit contains “highly sensitive information about witnesses, including witnesses interviewed by the government; specific investigative techniques; and information required by law to be kept under seal.” The affidavit contains the government’s reasonings for conducting the search of Trump’s home. Trump allies on Capitol Hill and elsewhere have been demanding the Justice Department to unseal the affidavit.
“Disclosure at this juncture of the affidavit supporting probable cause would…cause significant and irreparable damage to this ongoing criminal investigation“ is what U.S. Attorney Juan Gonzalez and the Justice Department’s counterintelligence and export control chief, Jay Bratt, wrote in the court filing.
The link to edited quoted news source material is here:
THREATS MADE ON FBI
Trump, his political allies and conservative media have denounced the FBI and the search, even though it was approved by a federal judge. And they also have pushed Trump’s claims that he’s being targeted for political reasons.
There has been a significant uptick in threats to the FBI after it executed the search warrant prompting the agency to take serious security measures. Barriers have been erected outside the perimeter of the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., while the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reportedly issued a joint bulletin warning about spikes in threats that included a bomb threat at FBI headquarters and calls for “civil war” and “armed rebellion.”
The bulletin issued by DHS and the FBI cited an incident in which a man armed with an AR-15-style rifle allegedly fired a nail gun into an FBI office in Cincinnati last week. He was fatally shot by police after a chase and standoff, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol.
On Monday, August 15, in an interview with Fox News, Trump himself said the temperature on the issue needed to come down, adding that he’d told aides to reach out to the Department of Justice to help. In the same interview, Trump directed his wrath at the Justice Department and suggested that his supporters’ anger was justified. Trump said that Americans are “not going to stand for another scam” and said that the FBI can “break into a president’s house” in a “sneak attack” and suggested that the FBI “could have planted anything they wanted” during the search.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It remains unclear whether the Justice Department will move forward with any indictment of Trump for espionage or if the warrant was simply a means to retrieve records Trump took from the White House that were highly classified and without any authorization. It is clear that he and the Republican Party believe he is above the law.
What is also clear is that the revelations from the search and the classified materials seized have open a major frontal attack that will benefit Democrats and increase the Democrats chances of holding onto congress at a time Republicans want to make Joe Biden’s job performance and inflation the main issues in the mid-terms. The search and the documents seized show how just dangerous it is if Trump returns to power. Republicans protect Trump no matter the cost, even when he places our national security at risk or for that matter attempts to overthrow the results of an election he lost by orchestrating the January 6 capital riot to stop the certification of the election.
Thus far absent from all reporting is any explanation or disclosures as to what the hell was former President Trump was doing with top secret classified documents in his home?. It’s disgusting that the Republican party defends Trump at all Cost. What’s very alarming are the threats on law enforcement that are occurring because of his encouragement. No one really knows but Trump what he was doing with 20 boxes of classified documents, what he did with top secrets and classified documents and who did he share them with and for what purpose.
The Affidavit that established probable cause for the search warrant should be released and will likely answer many questions as to what Trump did or was doing with the classified documents. Notwithstanding, the Justice Department has asked that the Affidavit not be unsealed in that to do so will jeopardize an ongoing investigation and no doubt place in harm’s way anyone who is identified in the affidavit who provided information on what Trump had and what he was doing with it.