Judge unseals additional portions of FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search affidavit
A federal judge Tuesday unsealed additional portions of an FBI affidavit laying out the basis for a search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, showing that agents had obtained a hard drive after issuing a subpoena for surveillance footage recorded inside the Florida residence.
A heavily redacted version of the affidavit was made public last month, but the Justice Department requested permission to show more of it after Trump’s lawyers revealed the existence of a June grand jury subpoena seeking video footage from cameras near the Mar-a-Lago storage room.
“Because those aspects of the grand jury’s investigation have now been publicly revealed, there is no longer any reason to keep them sealed (i.e. redacted) in the filings in this matter,” department lawyers wrote.
The newly visible portions of the affidavit show that, on June 24, the FBI demanded the footage after a visit weeks earlier to Mar-a-Lago, during which agents observed 50 to 55 boxes of records in the storage room. The Trump Organization provided a hard drive July 6 in response to the subpoena, the affidavit says.
The footage could be an important piece of the investigation, including the question of whether anyone has sought to obstruct the probe. The Justice Department has said in a separate filing that it has “developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”
The Justice Department has been investigating the holding of top-secret information and other classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House. FBI agents during their Aug. 8 search of the home and club said they recovered more than 11,000 documents and 1,800 other items, including roughly 100 with classification markings.
The Congressional Research Service says anyone who engages in the “unlawful removal or destruction of government records” is subject to punishment.
Separately on Tuesday, the Justice Department again urged U.S. District Aileen Cannon to lift her hold on core aspects of the investigation. Cannon, who was nominated to the bench by Trump, last week granted the Trump team’s request for a “special master,” or independent arbiter, to review the seized documents and weed out from the investigation any records that may be covered by claims of executive or attorney-client privilege.
She also ordered the department to halt its review of the records pending any further court order or the completion of a review by the yet-to-be-named special master. The department urged Cannon last week to put her order on hold and told the judge Tuesday that its investigation would be harmed by a continued delay of its ability to scrutinize the classified documents.
“The government and the public unquestionably have an interest in the timely enforcement of criminal laws, particularly those involving the protection of highly sensitive information, and especially where, as here, there may have been efforts to obstruct its investigation,” the lawyers wrote.
The Trump team Monday urged the judge to leave her order in place. His lawyers raised questions about the documents’ current classification status and noted that a president has absolute authority to declassify information, though they pointedly did not say that Trump had actually declassified anything.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.