Judge reveals more than affidavit used to request Mar-a-Lago search warrant

Judge reveals more than affidavit used to request Mar a Lago search | ltc-a

A federal prosecutor Wednesday unveiled additional parts of the affidavit the FBI used last summer to obtain a search warrant for sensitive documents at Mar-a-Lago, the private club and residence of former President Donald J. Trump in Florida , revealing some new details about how that extraordinary process had taken place.

The new sections of the affidavit suggested that prosecutors based their search, in part, on surveillance footage from cameras near a storage room in Mar-a-Lago’s basement that showed Walt Nauta, a personal aide to Mr. Trump, moving dozens of boxes in and out of the room days before federal prosecutors arrived to collect any sensitive documents still in Mr. Trump’s possession.

Much of the material in the affidavit unveiled Wednesday had already been made public in the sweeping indictment against Mr. Trump and Mr. Nauta issued in Miami last month. That indictment charged the former president with 31 counts of illegal retention of national defense information and a separate count of conspiring with Mr. Nauta to obstruct government efforts to reclaim it.

The judge who ordered the opening, Bruce E. Reinhart, had issued two previous orders opening separate portions of the warrant affidavit in response to media inquiries.

The recently revealed information included a photograph of dozens of boxes in the Mar-a-Lago warehouse, as well as detailed descriptions of various angles captured on security cameras outside the room.

« The closet door was painted gold and had no other markings on it, » wrote the FBI agent who drafted the affidavit. « The closet door is approximately halfway up the wall and can be reached via several wooden stairs. »

Echoing the indictment, the unredacted affidavit also noted that between May 24 and June 1, 2022, Mr. Nauta removed 64 boxes from the Mar-a-Lago warehouse, but only returned 25 o 30.

« The current location of the boxes removed from storage but not returned is unknown, » the affidavit said.

The newly released version of the affidavit, however, did not reveal all the reasons federal prosecutors believed sensitive documents remained in Mar-a-Lago even after two previous attempts to recover them from Mr. Trump.

In January 2022, Trump sent 15 boxes of government documents from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives, which they found contained nearly 200 classified documents. That prompted federal prosecutors to issue a subpoena in May for any additional materials bearing classified marks still in Trump’s possession. In June 2022, after conducting what was supposed to be a diligent search of Mar-a-Lago, one of the former president’s lawyers, M. Evan Corcoran, turned over another batch of 38 classified documents to the government.

But even after those two initial batches of documents were returned, prosecutors suspected that Trump still had more classified material at his residence in Mar-a-Lago and an adjacent area. Surveillance footage of Mr. Nauta was apparently just one piece of evidence to support this belief. A lengthy section of the affidavit following prosecutors’ claim that Mr. Trump had failed to return everything he was supposed to remain under seal.

It was Judge Reinhart who issued the warrant to search Mar-a-Lago last August, with the result that federal agents removed more than 100 documents bearing classification markings.

Judge Reinhart has also been assigned as the Magistrate Judge to prosecute Mr. Trump and Mr. Nauta. Mr. Nauta is expected to be arraigned in federal district court in Miami on Thursday.

Among the new details revealed Wednesday were that neither Mr. Corcoran nor another of Mr. Trump’s attorneys had told prosecutors that the former president had declassified any of the 38 classified documents handed over last June. That omission seemed to contradict a previous statement lawyers had made to the government, arguing that, as president, Mr. Trump had « absolute authority » to declassify any material he wanted.

The recently unredacted parts of the affidavit also say Mr Corcoran told the government he had been advised there were no classified documents « in any private office or other location in Mar-a-Lago » – a claim that the search for the property turned out to be false.

In March, a federal judge in Washington forced Mr. Corcoran to provide documents and testify before a grand jury investigating the case, bypassing the usual protections of attorney-client privilege because he believed Mr. Trump misled Mr. Corcoran about where Sensitive records have been kept at Mar-a-Lago.