US Justice Dept. unveils new details about Trump documents probe

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The US Department of Justice on Friday unveiled new details about its investigation into government papers that former President Donald Trump removed from the White House, including 184 classified documents, some of which were labeled as “top secret” and contained sensitive information about government informants and intelligence-gathering.

A heavily redacted affidavit about documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate that was released on Friday did not itself unveil any major new revelations. But the details in the affidavit could help explain why the Justice Department sought court approval for an August 8 search.

Much of the 32-page affidavit remains under seal.

In a separate filing made public Friday, the Justice Department said that information must remain confidential to protect a significant number of civilian witnesses, as well as, law enforcement and the integrity of the investigation itself. Much of that court filing was also redacted.

An August 8 search by the FBI at the Florida resort marked a significant escalation in one of the many federal and state investigations Trump is facing from his time in office and in private business. The Republican former president has suggested he might run for the White House again. He has described the search as politically motivated.

The FBI action was part of a federal probe 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 tried to obstruct the government’s investigation.

According to the document released on Friday, an unidentified FBI agent said that the US National Archives had discovered scores of “documents bearing classification markings” containing “national defense information” when it recovered 15 boxes from Mar-a-Lago in January.

The agent who drafted the affidavit said that after the FBI had reviewed the initial batch of records, it believed there was probable cause to believe more documents were still inside Mar-a-Lago.

“There is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at the premises,” the agent added.

The records unsealed on Friday also showed how Trump’s attorneys tried to convince the Justice Department not to pursue a criminal investigation, arguing Trump had the authority to declassify documents.

“Any attempt to impose criminal liability on a President or former President that involves his actions with respect to documents marked classified would implicate grave constitutional separation-of-powers issues,” Trump’s attorney Evan Corcoran wrote in a May 25 letter to the Justice Department’s head of counterintelligence.

“Beyond that, the primary criminal statute that governs the unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material does not apply to the President,” he added.

The FBI agent said a preliminary review of the records the Archives received in the 15 boxes, which was conducted between May 16-18, found 184 “unique documents” labeled as classified. Of those, 67 were marked “confidential” while 92 were marked as “secret” and 25 marked as “top secret.”

Other defense-related records, meanwhile, contained references to things such as confidential human sources that help the United States with its intelligence-gathering.