Former President Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago in Florida was raided by the FBI on Monday in search of classified documents he is alleged to have absconded with from the White House instead of turning over to the National Archives when he left office in January 2021.
On Friday, the federal judge who signed off on the search warrant for that FBI raid also ordered that the warrant and associated seized property receipt be unsealed and released to the general public, CNN reported.
U.S Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart authorized the initially sealed search warrant on Friday, August 5, and now one week later has allowed that same warrant to be publicly released following requests from both Attorney General Merrick Garland as well as former President Trump.
The search warrant and property receipt list ordered released
What was ordered released by the magistrate judge Friday was a copy of the general search and seizure warrant that specified the areas to be searched at Mar-a-Lago as well as what items could be seized by the FBI in those specified areas, along with a summary “receipt” list of what was actually taken into custody by federal agents during the execution of that warrant.
Not included in the release was the affidavit filed in support of the request for a search warrant that would have laid out the “probable cause” for why the FBI believed that an unprecedented search of a former president’s home was necessary.
The unsealed warrant did, however, include a reference to three specific criminal statutes that the bureau apparently believed Trump had potentially violated by keeping purportedly classified materials in storage at his south Florida home.
Criminal statutes referenced
The first of those criminal statutes is 18 U.S.C. Sec. 793, a part of the Espionage Act, which pertains to “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information,” and is likely in regard to classified materials dealing with national security.
Then there is 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1519, which covers the “destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations,” which is essentially an obstruction of justice charge that can result in up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the third statute referenced is 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2071, which deals with the “concealment, removal, or mutilation generally” of government records.
That third statute is particularly noteworthy because, while it only advises a prison sentence of up to three years if convicted, a conviction would also result in Trump being disqualified from holding any future office — which is quite clearly the overarching goal of the former president’s legion of political opponents in the Democratic Party and the federal government.
Seized materials may not have actually been classified, despite markings
CNN noted that the seized property receipt list showed that some materials marked as classified were recovered by FBI agents during the raid on Mar-a-Lago, along with other documents and items deemed to be sensitive.
However, given that the former president had the authority to declassify anything he wanted for any or no reason at all, which Trump insists that he did prior to leaving office, there is some dispute over whether those marked materials were actually still classified or not — meaning all of this could be much ado about nothing … again.