According to newly released court documents, the FBI told a judge they expected to find “evidence of obstruction” of justice in searching for former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida.
Investigators said top-secret files had been stored at Mar-a-Lago along with various newspapers and magazines.
The justice department redacted the affidavit to protect “a significant number of civilian witnesses.”
Trump said the investigation was run by “political pirates and thugs.”
On Friday, the US Department of Justice released a version of the affidavit used to justify the FBI’s raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property on August 8, but it has been heavily redacted.
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 FBI agent who drafted the affidavit wrote they had “probable cause” to believe that “evidence, contraband, fruits of crimes or other items illegally possessed” would be discovered.
“There is also probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at the premises,” the agent added.
The document shows that the unprecedented criminal investigation into a former president began after the National Archives, which maintains historic White House records, identified “a lot” of classified files among 15 boxes that it had recovered from Mar-a-Lago in January this year.
An FBI review of those materials uncovered 184 classified documents, including 25 marked as “Top Secret”
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 files – some of which appeared to show Mr 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.
The discovery led investigators to believe that Mr Trump may have violated three separate federal laws, including the Espionage Act that governs classified information.
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.