Washington: Newly released court papers say the FBI told a judge they expected to find “evidence of obstruction” of justice in a search of former US President Donald Trump’s Florida home.
About the August 8 raid, investigators said top secret files were stored at Mar-a-Lago along with assorted newspapers and magazines.
The discovery led investigators to believe that Trump may have been in violation of three separate federal laws, including the Espionage Act that governs classified information.
The justice department said it censored the affidavit to protect “a significant number of civilian witnesses”.
On Friday, the US Department of Justice released a “heavily redacted” version of the affidavit used to justify the FBI’s incursion into Trump’s estate, a BBC report said. Of the 38 pages in the unsealed affidavit, 21 are mostly or entirely blacked out. There are several pages in which not a single word is visible.
Given that the court papers were filed before the search of the Palm Beach estate, they contain no new details on the 11 sets of classified documents that the justice department has said were recovered from the exclusive golf club.
The cache included information from highly sensitive US intelligence human sources. Some items were also marked “Noforn” – meaning they must not be released to foreign nationals, the BBC added.
The files – some of which appeared to show Trump’s handwritten notes – were interspersed with newspapers, magazines, and other documents, according to the affidavit.
“Of most significant concern was that highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records and otherwise unproperly identified,” the document said.
A separate document explaining the proposed redactions noted that some parts of the affidavit must remain under seal to “protect the safety and privacy of civilian witnesses, in addition to law enforcement personnel, as well as to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation”, the BBC report said.
Revealing the identities of witnesses, the document added, could potentially lead to them being subjected to harm including “retaliation, intimidation, or harassment and even threats to their physical safety”.
Trump, who may launch another White House campaign for 2024, said the inquiry was being led by “political Hacks and Thugs”, on his social media platform, Truth Social.
He said that Judge Bruce Reinhart, who signed off on the search, should never have allowed the “break-in of my home”. He also accused the judge of “animosity” towards him. Trump has throughout maintained the documents were declassified by himself.
The justice department’s investigation is now expected to continue behind closed doors as it continues to review the documents and – potentially – call in more witnesses, the BBC report added.