The cover sheet for the government application for a court-approved warrant to search Donald Trump’s southern Florida property known as Mar-a-Lago was made available this week. The document confirms a federal suspicion that evidence of criminal activity was at Mar-a-Lago, and it specifies three potential crimes.
The document states the federal law enforcement officer who signed it had “reason to believe” there was “evidence of a crime” and/or “contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed” at the property. Descriptions for the three potential crimes cited in the document include “Willful retention of national defense information,” “Concealment or removal of government records,” and “Obstruction of federal investigation.” The specific piece of federal law underlying the third potential crime comes with an apparent possibility of up to 20 years in prison if someone charged with it admits to the offense or is found guilty. The first act is among the actions prohibited by the Espionage Act, which covers national defense issues. These three components of federal law were previously identified in an attachment to the warrant, but these descriptions — specifying areas of concern under those laws — are newly available.
A publicly available copy of the cover sheet displays a redaction of the identity of the agent at the FBI who signed the doc, which was dated August 5. The raid of Mar-a-Lago, which took place last week, was connected to a Justice Department investigation into the handling of government records from Trump’s administration. During the raid, FBI agents recovered materials identified as some of the most restricted information in the U.S. government, which is meant for viewing only within the confines of a kind of facility known as a SCIF, or sensitive compartmented information facility. A June statement signed by one of Trump’s lawyers asserted all the documents marked as classified from a particular storage area at Mar-a-Lago were returned to federal officials. During the raid, agents recovered nearly a dozen sets of classified documents, per an official listing — suggesting that signed statement was a lie and possibly providing the foundation for the suspicion of obstruction.
The anti-obstruction statute cited in the warrant materials specifically prohibits particular forms of meddling with documents for the purpose of undercutting a government probe, alongside other provisions of the law. Interests with stakes in the proceedings are working through the question of potentially releasing some version of an underlying affidavit providing foundations for the government’s argument for the court approving the warrant. It’s unclear at this point whether Trump himself might be charged with the potential criminal offenses cited in warrant materials, but circumstances certainly point to a possibility of Trump’s legal vulnerability eventually becoming less-than-theoretical.
NEW: Unsealed Trump Mar-a-Lago search warrant application cover sheet offers the DOJ’s description of potential crimes:
— Wilful retention of national defense information
— Concealment or removal of govt records
— Obstruction of federal investigationhttps://t.co/tA1vsQz2T7
— Hugo Lowell (@hugolowell) August 18, 2022