WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (NewsNation) — Breaking news update: A federal judge Saturday announced “preliminary intent” to appoint a special master to oversee the handling of the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
The Justice Department on Friday made public a heavily redacted version of the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate.
Despite being redacted, the affidavit contains details about an ongoing criminal investigation into classified documents being stored at Trump’s Palm Beach property after he left the White House.
Trump called the search of Mar-a-Lago a “weaponization” of the Justice Department and likened it to a “political attack on our country” during an appearance on “The Great America Show with Lou Dobbs.”
“They weaponize at a level that nobody’s ever seen before,” Trump said on the podcast, which was released Friday. “They go after political opponents at a level that nobody’s ever seen before with a raid (on) an ex-president, and a popular ex president.”
According to the affidavit, investigators believed additional classified documents were being held at Mar-a-Lago and that there was “probable cause” to believe that obstruction of evidence — somebody trying either to hide or destroy the documents — would be found.
The affidavit states that 14 of the 15 boxes recovered from Mar-a-Lago earlier this year contained documents with classification markings.
It details “184 unique documents (sic) bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET.”
Trump asserted he had done nothing wrong “from day one” during his interview with Dobbs.
“Everything was absolutely perfect. It was a perfect, it was perfectly handled,” Trump said. “And they could have come in, and they could have talked to us and they could have taken whatever they needed.”
The former president went on to reinforce the anger his supporters have directed at the FBI and Justice Department in wake of the Mar-a-Lago search, saying “they are furious. I’ve never seen anger like it.”
He also, once again, made a false claim he won the 2020 presidential election.
“They love the country more than they ever have, because they see what we’ve lost,” Trump said. “We’ve lost our country, in my opinion. If this continues, I think just horrible things will happen. And that’s not said as a threat. That said, as somebody that just feels it. I feel it, I think horrible things. They are destroying our country. They’re destroying our system. And they lost an election. They lost an election and they lost it big.”
Late Friday night Trump and his legal team filed a supplemental motion seeking judicial oversight and additional relief in their case against the FBI, essentially alleging the case has not been handled fairly thus far and a “special master” should be appointed to oversee the case.
In their motion, filed in a U.S. District Court, Trump’s legal team laid out why their previous requests for a special master to oversee the case should have been granted and also asked the court to provide them with a more ” sufficiently detailed” account of what was taken from Mar-a-Lago by the FBI and for the return any items that fell outside the scope of the affidavit.
Upon their original request for oversight, a judge ordered them to explain further why they believed a special master would be required. The motion filed by Trump Friday night attempted to do that.
“This Court’s authority to appoint a Special Master to oversee the review of potentially privileged material is well established,” the motion read in part. “The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has appointed Special Masters in two recent (and prominent) cases, in both instances directing the appointments in new dockets.”
Investigators believed documents were being kept in a storage room, the first lady’s residential suite, Pine Hall, the “45 Office” and other spaces on the premises not authorized for storage of classified information or national defense information.
According to the affidavit, several of the documents also contained what appeared to be the former president’s “handwritten notes.”
The Justice Department redacted, or blacked out, the information they want to keep secret to protect details about witnesses and the scope of the investigation.
It was expected that large chunks of the text would be redacted as the DOJ had tried to keep the affidavit sealed, saying the investigation is currently ongoing and releasing it could hamper investigators’ efforts.
View the redacted Mar-a-Lago search affidavit below:
Trump reacted to the release of the affidavit on his social media platform Truth Social, saying, “Affidavit heavily redacted!!! Nothing mentioned on “Nuclear,” a total public relations subterfuge by the FBI & DOJ.”
Trump again called the FBI search a “Break-In of my home” and was critical of the judge who signed off on the search warrant.
“Judge Bruce Reinhart should never have allowed the break-in of my home,” Trump said.
The affidavit shows that the DOJ’s investigation began after the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) requested help with “serious concerns” in recovering missing documents.
NARA first requested specific missing documents from Trump lawyers back in May of 2021.
It wasn’t until January that NARA said it recovered more than 100 documents bearing classified markings, totaling more than 700 pages, from an initial batch of 15 boxes retrieved from Mar-a-Lago, according to government correspondence with the Trump legal team newly made public.
What they ended up finding in those boxes were “newspapers, magazines, printed news articles, photos, miscellaneous print-outs, notes, presidential correspondence, personal and post-presidential records, and ‘a lot of classified records.'”
There was speculation that the DOJ may not have been intending to charge anybody with a crime and that they just wanted to get the documents back.
However, the affidavit states that the FBI was opening a criminal investigation to determine how these documents left the White House and who’s responsible.
In May of 2022, it became a criminal matter and the affidavit describes repeated attempts by the government to secure additional materials stored at Mar-a-Lago.
Documents already made public as part of the investigation show that the FBI retrieved from the property 11 sets of classified documents, including information marked at the top secret level.
It is not specifically known what the details of those documents are.
The Aug. 12 release of the search warrant in the investigation helped paint a picture of the possible crimes authorities believe Trump may have committed, including violating the Espionage Act.
Trump has urged the release of the full unredacted affidavit and has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government following what he calls an “un-American break-in.”
Trump and his legal team claim all of the documents were declassified and rightfully in his possession. The affidavit offered some insight into the claim.
It includes a letter from Trump lawyer M. Evan Corcoran in which he asserts that a president has “absolute authority” to declassify documents and that “presidential actions involving classified documents are not subject to criminal sanction.”
In the letter, Corcoran asks that the DOJ investigation into the “leader of the Republican Party” not “involve politics.”
He then says the boxes of classified documents were “unknowingly included among the boxes brought to Mar-a-Lago by the movers.”
The release of the redacted affidavit comes as a new NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ poll found that most Americans approve of the FBI’s search of Trump’s estate. More than 93% of Democrats and 61% of independents surveyed said they somewhat or strongly approve of the FBI’s search of Trump’s Florida home, compared to just 30% of Republicans who said the same.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates