By Zachary Stieber
No portions of the redacted search warrant affidavit supported the Biden administration taking the unprecedented step of raiding a former president’s home, a former top intelligence official says.
“I think it provided a general recitation of the fact that the FBI and the Department of Justice believed that there were classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. But I didn’t really see anything in the affidavit that justified what still seems like an extreme approach by the FBI and the Department of Justice to retrieve those documents if in fact they were classified,” John Ratcliffe, a director of national intelligence during the Trump administration, said during an interview aired on CBS News on Aug. 26.
The affidavit, authored by an FBI agent, convinced U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart on Aug. 5 to approve a warrant. The warrant was executed three days later at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. The affidavit was released with redactions earlier Friday.
Officials said they had reason to believe Trump violated federal laws, including laws that bar destroying, falsifying, or altering certain records and transmitting or losing defense information.
The core discovery driving the investigation, according to the unredacted portions, was the identification of classified information in 15 boxes transferred from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives and Records Administration earlier in 2022. FBI agents reviewed the materials themselves in May, according to the affidavit, and had reason to believe more such documents were still stored at Mar-a-Lago.
“There’s nothing in there that’s really going to tamp down the tensions that are running so high in this country with the American people about whether to not this is justified,” Ratcliffe, a former Republican congressman, told CBS.
“If you set out to deepen divisions between Americans and to increase a level of skepticism or distrust of the FBI and the Department of Justice, then they succeeded,” he added.
Richard Grenell, who was acting director of national intelligence before Ratcliffe was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, said that there were too many redactions in the copy of the affidavit made public.
“This is way too much redaction. Revealing a source or a method is the only reason to redact. This is done by redacting words, not paragraphs. Intel agencies have created a crisis of confidence,” Grenell wrote on Twitter.
“This is completely political and the American people see it,” he added.
Stephen Miller, who was a senior adviser to the president during the Trump administration, was also among the additional former administration officials offering criticism after the affidavit was released.
“The idea, spelled out in the affidavit, that the Archives sicced the FBI on President Trump—on the premise that unelected bureaucrats, not POTUS, had final authority on national security—can only be construed as an attempt to overthrow our entire democratic constitutional order,” he said in a social media post.
Still, some other former officials disagreed.
Andrew Weissman, a former prosecutor, said that the affidavit showed him that the Department of Justice “seems to have acted quickly” after FBI agents reviewed the documents from Mar-a-Lago.
“The department actually looks pretty darn good here in terms of what they were doing,” Weissman, who has donated to onetime Trump rival Hillary Clinton in the past, said on NPR.
“You can understand why they acted so quickly because … not only were there 184 classified documents, but there were 25 documents that were at the very highest level of classification. And that, of course, could raise a ton of red flags as to whether the department believed there were still documents that could be just as confidential still at Mar-a-Lago,” he added later.