Key takeaways: Justice Department releases redacted Mar-a-Lago search affidavit

A former federal prosecutor who is not associated with the case says he’s never seen a search warrant affidavit more important than the one released Friday

FILE - An aerial view of President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate Aug. 10, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File) (Steve Helber, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The Justice Department on Friday released an affidavit explaining the justification for an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida earlier this month when agents removed top secret government records and other classified documents.

News4JAX went through the 38-page affidavit, highlighting some of the key takeaways, and spoke with former federal prosecutor Curtis Fallgatter, who is not associated with the case.

“The warrant was specific as to what they could take. They don’t get to take his bank statements or something else. This was national security information,” Fallgatter said. “And if they walk out with all those boxes, I think it’s pretty well understood those boxes contain evidence of the crime.”

Fallgatter said he’s never seen a search warrant affidavit more important than the one released Friday to the public by the Department of Justice.

DOCUMENT: Read the FBI affidavit

The FBI told a U.S. Magistrate, “The search would likely find evidence of obstruction” and reads, “There’s probable cause to believe that additional documents that contained classified National Defense Information or that are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at the premises.”

Even though the affidavit is heavily redacted, it inventories classified documents that the FBI recovered at the former president’s home including:

  • 184 classified documents, of which 67 were marked confidential
  • 92 were marked as secret
  • 25 were marked as top secret.

The FBI’s investigation into Trump began in early February.

“Obviously, the government had information that there were still documents there, which the search warrant has confirmed. So again, all that is very dangerous. We don’t know what those documents are, people talking about nuclear codes?” Fallgatter said. “And you remember, he’s a former president, he’s not a president, he has no legal authority to be in possession of national security information, had no authority to take him from the White House.”

Trump responded Friday on social media in a statement reading in part:

“Affidavit Heavily redacted!! Nothing mentioned on “Nuclear, a total public relations subterfuge by the FBI and DOJ, or our close working relationship regarding document turnover. WE GAVE THEM MUCH. Judge Bruce Reinhard should NEVER have allowed the Break-In of my home.”

Fallgatter disagrees.

“It was appropriate for the FBI to do what they did. And let me add, it’s shameful that folks are now attacking FBI, physically and in writing, talking about defunding the FBI,” he said. “You know, as a federal prosecutor, we did hundreds of search warrants, and this is no different than any other. And the probable cause in this case was compelling.”

Fallgatter said the unprecedented release of this search warrant affidavit will not affect the Department of Justice’s case if it files criminal charges against Trump. He said it all depends on what was inside those 15 boxes of documents recently removed from the president’s home and the level of national security information that he was storing in South Florida.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.