Why did FBI agents search former president Donald Trump’s residence? We now have the evidence laying out their reasoning — kind of. It’s called an affidavit. In its full form, this document spells out exactly what FBI agents think was hidden at Mar-a-Lago and what crimes may have been committed. They presented this to a judge to make their case to search Mar-a-Lago, and these documents are usually kept under lock and key.
But given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding a former president, a judge ordered the government to release as much of the affidavit as it can to the public. The version the Justice Department unsealed Friday is heavily redacted, which prosecutors said was to protect its ongoing investigation.
Below are notable highlights from the affidavit, with annotations providing analysis and background.
Read the redacted affidavit in support of the Mar-a-Lago search warrant
This document spells out exactly what FBI agents think was hidden at Donald Trump’s residence and what crimes may have been committed.
Click or tap the highlighted passages for additional analysis.
The government is conducting a criminal investigation1 concerning the improper removal and storage of classified information in unauthorized spaces, as well as the unlawful concealment or removal of government records.
The investigation began as a result of a referral the United States National Archives and Records Administration2 (NARA) sent to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) on February 9, 2022, hereinafter, NARA Referral.
The FBI’s investigation has established that documents bearing classification markings,3 which appear to contain National Defense Information (NDI), were among the materials contained in the FIFTEEN BOXES and were stored at the PREMISES in an unauthorized location.
Further, there is probable cause to believe that additional documents that contain classified NDI or that are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at the PREMISES. There is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at the PREMISES.4
Based upon the following facts, there is probable cause to believe that the locations to be searched at the PREMISES contain evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 793(e), 1519, or 2071.5
[A] preliminary review of the FIFTEEN BOXES indicated that they contained “newspapers, magazines, printed news articles, photos, miscellaneous print-outs, notes, presidential correspondence, personal and post presidential records, and ‘a lot of classified records.’ Of most significant concern was that highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly [sic] identified.6
Boxes Containing Documents Were Transported from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. According to a CBS Miami article titled ”Moving Trucks Spotted At Mar-a-Lago,” 7published Monday, January 18, 2021, at least two moving trucks were observed at the PREMISES on January 18, 2021.
From May 16-18, 2022, FBI agents conducted a preliminary review of the FIFTEEN BOXES provided to NARA and identified documents with classification markings in fourteen of the FIFTEEN BOXES. A preliminary triage of the documents with classification markings revealed the following approximate numbers: 184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET8. Further, the FBI agents observed markings reflecting the following compartments/dissemination controls: HCS, FISA, ORCON, NOFORN, and SI. Based on my training and experience, I know that documents classified at these levels typically contain NDI. Several of the documents also contained what appears to be FPOTUS ‘s handwritten notes.
In the second such letter, which is attached as Exhibit I, FPOTUS COUNSEL 1 asked DOJ to consider a few “principles,” which include FPOTUS COUNSEL’s claim that a President has absolute authority to declassify documents. In this letter, FPOTUS COUNSEL 1 requested, among other things, that “DOJ provide this letter to any judicial officer who is asked to rule on any motion pertaining to this investigation, or on any application made in connection with any investigative request concerning this investigation9.
As I previously indicated to you, Mar-a-Lago does not include a secure location authorized for the storage of classified information. As such, it appears that since the time classified documents [redacted] were removed from the secure facilities at the White House and moved to Mar-a-Lago on or around January 20, 2021, they have not been handled in appropriate manner or stored in appropriate location11. Accordingly, we ask that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents had been stored be secured and that all of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) be preserved in that room in their current condition until further notice.
Based upon this investigation, I believe that the STORAGE ROOM, FPOTUS’s residential suite, Pine Hall, the “45 Office,” and other spaces within the PREMISES are not currently authorized locations for the storage of classified information or NDI.12 Similarly, based upon this investigation, I do not believe that any spaces within the PREMISES have been authorized for the storage of classified information at least since the end of FPOTUS ‘s Presidential Administration on January 20, 2021. As described above, evidence of the SUBJECT OFFENSES has been stored in multiple locations at the PREMISES.