The warrant, without the affidavits, does not explain why an unannounced raid was conducted

Washington DC, USA - December 29, 2016: FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters, on Pennsylvania avenue sign with traffic reflections at night

Op-ed by Elad Hakim

During Thursday’s press conference, Attorney General Merrick Garland told Americans that the Justice Department would release the warrant leading to the raid on President Donald Trump’s private residence. The warrant was subsequently released today and can be found here. While the release of the warrant is a good start, Americans should be more interested in the affidavits that allegedly established probable cause.

A warrant must be based on credible information that is sufficient to establish probable cause. In this case, probable cause was seemingly derived from information provided by one or more informants. These informants likely provided affidavits that clearly and specifically laid out the facts providing the basis for the warrant and a finding of probable cause.

While the warrant and a receipt of what documents were seized are important, the affidavit(s) is/are vital. Here, the FBI raided the personal residence of a former president without notice. According to Garland, “Where possible, it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search and to narrowly scope any search.” However, Garland failed to specifically explain why the FBI failed to do so in this case.

This warrant, in and of itself, means little without the affidavit and leaves many questions unanswered. For example, if an unannounced raid was justified, why was there a delay in executing the warrant? According to former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, the affidavit was signed on a Friday but was not executed until Monday. More importantly, what specific information compelled the FBI to raid the former president’s house without notice rather than by using a subpoena to obtain the alleged documents? How did the alleged informant(s) obtain this information? What were the specific allegations that led the attorney general to sign off on the warrant?

According to The Washington Post, agents were searching the former president’s house for classified nuclear information:

“Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Experts in classified information said the unusual search underscores deep concern among government officials about the types of information they thought could be located at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and potentially in danger of falling into the wrong hands.

The people who described some of the material that agents were seeking spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. They did not offer additional details about what type of information the agents were seeking, including whether it involved weapons belonging to the United States or some other nation. Nor did they say if such documents were recovered as part of the search. A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. The Justice Department and FBI declined to comment.”

If this is accurate, who provided this information and on what basis? Also, if such classified information was missing, why would the FBI wait close to two years to search the former president’s house to get it back? Did the FBI not know that material of this nature was allegedly missing for over eighteen months or is there another reason behind the recent raid?    

Americans should not expect too much when the warrant is released. The warrant, while important, must be based on credible information establishing probable cause to justify an unannounced raid of this nature. The affidavit(s) is/are unlikely to be released unless/until a criminal case is filed, at which time they might still be protected and/or heavily redacted. If criminal charges are pursued at some point, the raid, warrant, and/or seizure of relevant documents will likely be challenged on one or more legal grounds.

This is the meat of the matter. What justified this raid? What was so important that the FBI had to raid President Trump’s private home without notifying him? Unfortunately, Americans might not know the true answers to these questions for quite some time, if at all.  

Mr. Hakim is an attorney and columnist. His articles have been published in The Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, American Thinker, and other online publications. He is also a regular guest on OANN’s Tipping Point, and has appeared on Newsmax, The Jenna Ellis Show, Steadfast and Loyal Podcast with Allen West, The Dave Weinbaum Show, and Real America’s Voice. 

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