New details revealed in FBI Mar-a-Lago search

Politics

(NewsNation) — A federal judge Tuesday unsealed added portions of an FBI affidavit explaining the basis for the search at former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, showing that agents earlier obtained a hard drive after issuing a subpoena for surveillance footage recorded inside Mar-a-Lago.

The affidavit included fewer redactions on around eight pages and offers several new details about what led to the search of Trump’s property in Palm Beach, Florida.

New information from the former redactions includes that investigators requested all surveillance records, videos, images, photos and CCTV from internal cameras from the ground floor of the basement at Mar-a-Lago dating all the way back to Jan. 10. It’s just days prior to when Trump representatives turned over at least 15 boxes of documents with classified markings to National Archives.

Per the affidavit, the Trump Organization maintains the cameras around the storage room at Mar-a-Lago and provided a hard drive of surveillance footage to FBI agents July 6.

The affidavit also revealed that the 15 boxes given to National Archives contained 184 unique documents with classification markings. On June 3, while FBI agents arrived at Mar-a-Lago to retrieve additional documents in response to a subpoena, the affidavit details that Trump’s team handed over a single Redweld envelope, wrapped in tape, containing documents they say were found during a review of the boxes kept in Mar-a-Lago’s storage room.

A preliminary review by authorities of the documents inside the Redweld envelope showed that there were 38 unique documents marked as confidential, 16 documents marked as secret and 17 documents marked as top secret. FBI agents also observed other markings including “HCS,” “SI” and “FISA,” along with multiple handwritten notes.

The affidavit says Trump’s counsel insisted the boxes in the storage room were the “remaining repository” of records from the White House. During their June 3 visit, agents were shown the storage room and noticed around 50-55 boxes still in the room.

On June 8, the DOJ sent a letter to Trump’s counsel reiterating that Mar-a-Lago was not an authorized place to store classified information. They also requested the preservation of the storage room and the boxes removed from the White House.

The affidavit with fewer redactions also mentioned that while negotiating a subpoena May 25, Trump’s counsel sent a letter to the DOJ asking them to consider a few “principles” that suggest a president could have authority to declassify documents. When Trump’s representatives were presenting documents to agents June 3, the affidavit says, neither Trump’s counsel nor his custodian of presidential records asserted that Trump had any declassified documents.

The end of the affidavit concluded there was probable cause to believe documents containing classified information remained at Mar-a-Lago following the June 3 handover, sparking the FBI search of the property Aug. 8.

The search has met resistance, as well as back and forth legal filings between the DOJ and Trump, including Trump’s request for a special master of the investigation.

In the latest Thursday, the DOJ filed a new document that clarifies its main concern in Trump’s request for a special master is that the department does not want the special master to be able to review a set of 100 documents it says are classified and needed for continued use during the criminal investigation.

Who will serve as the special master has not yet been agreed to at this time. Both Trump’s side and the DOJ have submitted a list of names, with the DOJ agreeing to one of Trump’s proposed special master candidates – Raymond Dearie. He has not officially been selected as the special master.

Trump’s attorneys believe a special master will give Americans more confidence in the investigation. They say there has been “selective leaking” from the government when it comes to sharing information about the probe.

“We need to lower the temperature on both sides and take a deep breath,” legal representation for the former president said.

They compared the situation to having an overdue library book and asked the judge to keep a ruling in place that stops the FBI from viewing documents seized in the search until a special master is appointed. Trump’s legal team also suggested that some of the documents marked classified may not actually be.

Meanwhile, the DOJ has argued that a special master will delay a criminal investigation and that Trump does not have the right to a special master since the United States owns the classified documents. It also insisted that a government filter team is already reviewing the seized documents.

While appearing on NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Monday, NewsNation political editor Chris Stirewalt said in these situations there’s usually one side that wants to take its time and the other that wants to go fast.

“The Justice Department wants to go fast, especially on the part that started it seems like all of this or most of this, which is the investigation into potential compromises of national security concerns around these documents. So, that’s what they want to do first of all. They say they need to do it now, now, now!” Stirewalt explained. “Trump’s team says let’s slow down, let’s slow down, let’s slow down. So first, slow down with the special master. Now, they’re going to fight over who the special master is. Then they say when the special master has the documents, they’ll need three months to go through the documents. So, you can see that the two sides have different perspectives on how quickly this should be going.”

What are the odds that the DOJ and Trump’s team will agree on a special master? It’s unclear, but Stirewalt says the judge only has so much patience and already gave the Trump team a win by allowing a special master in the first place.

“If this drags on too long, at a certain point this judge will say ‘OK, here’s who your special master is going to be. Take it, like it or lump it, and we’re going to go forward from here,’” Stirewalt said.

It’s in the judge’s hands to resolve the dispute over who the special master should be for the seemingly stalled investigation.

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