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The Mar-a-Lago Search Warrant: A Legal Introduction

Follow up to previous posting, Trump Had More Than 300 Classified Documents at Mar-a-Lago, which included links to government documents pertaining to the FBI search and NARA’s repeated requests to secure the return of classified government documents, please see CRS Legal Sidebar The Mar-a-Lago Search Warrant: A Legal Introduction, August 23, 2022: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently executed a search warrant at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach, Florida. A magistrate judge of the U.S.District Court for the Southern District of Florida later unsealed the warrant at the Department of Justice’s request, which the former President did not oppose. The warrant authorized government officials to seize all “documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation” of three federal statutes—18 U.S.C. §§ 793, 2071, and 1519. In addition to the warrant itself and its attachments, the court unsealed other material related to the search, including the cover sheet to the warrant application and an inventory of property seized. Proceedings are underway to unseal a redacted version of the affidavit supporting the warrant, and former President Trump filed a motion asking the court, among other things, to appoint a special master to oversee the government’s handling of the seized material. This Sidebar describes the process for and implications of obtaining a search warrant. It then examines the criminal offenses identified in the Mar-a-Lago warrant. Finally, this Sidebar analyzes presidential authority to declassify documents and the role of declassification for the crimes at issue…”

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