Redacted affidavit used to justify FBI raid of Trump home released
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The Justice Department on Friday released a heavily-redacted copy of the affidavit that persuaded a US judge to authorize the stunning FBI search of the Florida residence of former president Donald Trump.
Government lawyers had opposed the release of the affidavit but the judge ordered it unsealed with redactions the Justice Department said were necessary to protect an ongoing investigation involving national security.
FBI agents raided Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida on August 8, seizing boxes containing a large amount of highly classified documents that Trump had not returned to the government despite multiple requests and a subpoena to do so.
But Judge Bruce Reinhart accepted Justice Department arguments that there was a "compelling" need to mask significant portions of the document.
Justice authorities argued against unsealing the document, saying it would require redactions "so extensive as to render the remaining unsealed text devoid of meaningful content."
But the judge said its release served the public interest, since the case involves the unprecedented search of the home of a former president.
The warrant for the raid cited three criminal statutes, including one falling under the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to illegally obtain or retain national security information, and another on obstruction of a federal investigation.
"The political Hacks and Thugs had no right under the Presidential Records Act to storm Mar-a-Lago and steal everything in sight, including Passports and privileged documents," Trump said on social media Friday.
"They even broke into my safe with a safecracker - Can you believe?" he wrote. "We are right now living in a Lawless Country, that just so happens to be, also, a Failing Nation!"
Naming a special master could potentially block investigators' access to the documents, especially if he or she accepts Trump's claims that most were privileged.
In addition, it could interfere if the Justice Department is considering charging Trump with obstructing their investigations by refusing to hand over the documents.
The former president's lawsuit was not filed in the federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where the original warrant was issued, but in more distant Fort Pierce, where the sole judge is a Trump appointee.