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FBI Searched Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Home for Suspected Violations of Espionage Act and More, Unsealed Warrant Shows

 
Former President Trump And Fellow Conservatives Address Annual CPAC Meeting

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole on Aug. 6, 2022 in Dallas, Texas.

The FBI searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and safe looking for evidence of Espionage Act and other violations, unsealed search warrant materials confirm.

The court-released documents confirm leaks that spilled across conservative and right-wing media on Friday.

One attachment to the warrant showed agents sought “All physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 793, 2071, or 1519.”

The first of these is the Espionage Act of 1917, a statute familiar to WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and Reality Winner. The statute is not synonymous with spying in the colloquial sense and relates to the unlawful storage of national defense information.

“This is an astounding moment in American history,” said former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner, who is now a partner with the firm Rottenberg Lipman Rich PC. “No president has ever before being investigated for this crime, as far as I know, including Richard Nixon.”

The FBI also sought “Any evidence of the knowing alteration, destruction, or concealment of any government and/or Presidential Records, or of any documents with classification markings,” echoing the statutory language of the crimes listed on that attachment.

The property receipt confirms the Wall Street Journal’s reporting that “Top Secret” and other classified files were found during the search.

Trump faced a Friday afternoon deadline to respond in court as to whether the materials should be unsealed, but he did so first on the social media platform that he founded.

“Not only will I not oppose the release of documents related to the unAmerican, unwarranted, and unnecessary raid and break-in of my home in Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago, I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents,” Trump posted, adding — without evidence — that the “radical left” drew up the warrant.

Conservative and right-wing media learned about the documents before the rest of the public. The Wall Street Journal and Breitbart both reported that they had obtained copies of the search warrant, its attachments and the FBI’s property receipt from the search.

Breitbart — a staunchly pro-Trump website whose former chairman was chief strategist Steve Bannon — buried the revelation about the Espionage Act more than a dozen paragraphs into their story, in an update to a story about the FBI taking the weekend from the approval of the warrant to its execution. That right-wing website published the names of the FBI agents involved, whose identities are redacted in court papers.

Trump supporters have lashed out against the FBI following the search, including one armed Navy veteran who tried to breach the bureau’s Cincinnati field office.

The search warrant, which was approved to the highest levels of the Justice Department, was authorized by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart. Long before his tenure in the Southern District of Florida began, Reinhart had a record bipartisan political donations.

On Thursday, Garland announced that he “personally” signed off on the search, and the filing by his Justice Department demonstrates other top-ranking participation on that decision. U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez, from the Southern District of Florida, and Jay I. Bratt, the Justice Department’s chief for Counterintelligence and Export Control Section National Security Division, co-signed the motion to unseal.

The search warrant materials did not include the affidavit listing the evidence of probable cause, which the Wall Street Journal reported Trump doesn’t have.

Read the unsealed documents, below:

(Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks.