On August 8, I published a blog critical of the Justice Department’s execution of a search warrant at the Florida home of Donald Trump.

On that date and on today’s date there is no description of what Attorney General Garland is looking for. The warrant and the receipt (both given to Trump when the court-mandated search was completed) give a hint in describing some of what was seized as “top secret-SCI.”
Our intrepid press has described SCI as a classification used for the nation’s most closely guarded secrets. It is that and can be a lot less.

SCI is the acronym for “sensitive compartmented information” which means that the relevant government agency decided to put what it deemed highly secret “into a compartment.”

Once put into a compartment, the material in the compartment cannot be seen by even the holders of the highest security clearance unless and until such persons are “read into” that specific compartment. Once “read into” the relevant compartment, those admitted can only see SCI in a “scif,” (pronounced “skiff”) a “sensitive compartmented information facility.” That, of course is a decision made by the agency creating the compartment. That rule and that practice do not apply to the President. He (or she) can see everything. The entire White House is a scif.

I personally dealt with SCI as one of three public members of an inter-agency group charged with declassifying still-secret Nazi war crimes documents throughout the government. The CIA put certain material into a compartment so that the public members could not see it. Eventually we were read into the compartment. This is an aside that does not apply to the Trump materials.

I am certain that the Trump SCI has been appropriately created. The material sought in the warrant was properly made SCI and no administrative hanky-panky is involved.

The Trump warrant cites a number of criminal statutes that Trump’s retention of government documents violates. In each instance it does not matter if the retained material is classified or not.

What is all this about? That can be explained in the government’s affidavit in support of the warrant. A clearly rattled U.S. Magistrate held a hearing on August 18 at the request of news organizations seeking the release of the affidavit. The judge gave the DOJ until next Thursday to file a list of requested redactions in the affidavit (wait until you see that list!).
In my opinion, DOJ is right to oppose release of the affidavit because it discloses facts about an ongoing criminal investigation.

Oh, and the losing parties can appeal to a United States District Judge.

This will go on for some time before we know anything. At least Trump no longer has the documents.