Fox News contributor and former Trump campaign adviser Karl Rove wasn’t buying what Fox was trying to sell on Friday when it came to the redacted affidavit used to justify the FBI’s search for classified documents at former President Donald Trump’s estate.
Nearly three weeks after the feds first executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago for evidence of Trump’s potential violation of the Espionage Act, the Justice Department unsealed the 38-page affidavit behind it. Judge Bruce E. Reinhart agreed with the feds that the proposed redactions were necessary to shield confidential sources and investigative methods, and ordered the document unsealed by Friday afternoon.
Even with the markups, the affidavit revealed that agents believed there was “probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found” and that classified national security documents were still on the premises at Mar-a-Lago. It was also revealed that after the FBI reviewed 15 boxes returned to the National Archives by Trump earlier this year, “184 unique documents bearing classification markings” were found—including 25 documents marked “TOP SECRET.”
Following the release of the affidavit on Friday, Fox News anchors still wondered why the DOJ felt it necessary to execute an “unprecedented” search warrant on the ex-president’s home. Instead, they wondered, the feds should have just issued another subpoena or tried to get Trump to cooperate in some other fashion.
“But why also wasn’t there another subpoena, another effort at interaction?” Fox News chief political anchor Bret Baier pondered at one point. “Were they seeing a total stiff-arm from the Trump people? That’s not in this document yet, at least we can’t see it.”
Rove, who has become critical of Trump’s attempt to overthrow the 2020 election, saw things a bit differently. In his view, the federal government has given Trump ample opportunity to comply while being misled by the ex-president’s team.
“I would suggest from an untutored angle two things,” he told anchor Sandra Smith. “One is there is a letter, don’t know who it came from, but one of President Trump’s lawyers apparently comes in June and says you got all the classified material. We don’t have any more classified material here at Mar-a-Lago.”
Rove was referencing a June 3 statement reportedly signed by Trump attorney and ex-One America News host Christina Bobb and given to FBI agents asserting that all classified information housed at Mar-a-Lago had been returned. Bobb was designated as Trump’s custodian over the documents.
The former aide to President George W. Bush went on to say that it was quite possible that a witness tipped off the FBI that they’d “been misled” by the Trump team, either via a “deliberate lie or a lie based in ignorance,” prompting the raid.
Smith, referring to comments made by Fox News legal analyst Jonathan Turley, said that “the affidavit did not establish that the Trump people were wholly uncooperative or non-communicative.” Noting that Turley did concede that Trump was “asked to turn over material and did not do so,” she wondered why the feds took a heavy-handed approach.
“There seems to be still a huge piece missing there in the timeline, and the affidavit does not appear to clear that up. Going back to the New York Post headline in the middle of all this, ‘you could have just asked,’” Smith added.
“The Presidential Records Act is clear,” Rove responded. “A president does not have the right to leave the White House and pick and choose what documents he wants to take with him. He can ask for copies, but those are the property of the American people and since 1978, no president has left with sort of picking and choosing their own documents.”
Stating that the “impression in the affidavit” is the DOJ asked multiple times for the documents and had a “general sense” of how many boxes remained after the June visit, Rove then dismissed the network’s spin about Trump’s willingness to cooperate.
“So, you know, maybe we ought to ask the government, how many times did you ask for the return of the material and President Trump has said several times, ‘all they had do was ask,’” he declared.
“Well, my sense is they were asking for a year and a half, and why he was holding on to these materials when he had no legal authority to do so under the Presidential Records Act is beyond me,” Rove concluded.
“All right, Karl Rove with his thoughts on that,” co-anchor John Roberts reacted. “Karl, we appreciate it. We may come back to you, depending on how the afternoon unfolds.”