Justice Department opposes unsealing affidavit in Trump search

The government argued that making the document public would jeopardize the investigation into the former US president

Donald Trump departs Trump Tower two days after FBI agents searched his Mar-a-Lago home.
Donald Trump departs Trump Tower two days after FBI agents searched his Mar-a-Lago home.DAVID DEE DELGADO (REUTERS)

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) opposed on Monday unsealing the affidavit justifying the search warrant for Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The DOJ was responding to court filings made by several news organizations. The former US president has not yet commented on the decision, but several Republicans have called for the affidavit to be made public and insinuated that the DOJ is trying to stop it from coming to light.

The DOJ explained its reasons for keeping the affidavit sealed in a 13-page filing. “There remain compelling reasons, including to protect the integrity of an ongoing law enforcement investigation that implicates national security, that support keeping the affidavit sealed,” it stated.

Both the DOJ and Trump agreed to unseal the search warrant and the property receipt of the items seized during last Monday’s raid. This information revealed that agents were investigating potential violations of three different federal laws, and that numerous classified documents were found at his Florida home. What was not made public was the affidavit, the document in which the prosecution laid out the reasons for the unprecedented search of a former president’s home.

In the court filing, the DOJ said: “The fact that this investigation implicates highly classified materials further underscores the need to protect the integrity of the investigation and exacerbates the potential for harm if information is disclosed to the public prematurely or improperly.”

“Disclosure of the government’s affidavit at this stage would also likely chill future cooperation by witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses, as well as in other high-profile investigations,” it added.

The DOJ explained: “The government has a compelling, overriding interest in preserving the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation,” adding that the affidavit “contains, among other critically important and detailed investigative facts: highly sensitive information about witnesses, including witnesses interviewed by the government; specific investigative techniques; and information required by law to be kept under seal.”

If disclosed, the affidavit would provide insight into the roadmap of the ongoing investigation, “providing specific details about its direction and likely course, in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps,” said the DOJ.

In the filing, the DOJ said it considered unsealing a redacted version of the affidavit, but “the redactions necessary to mitigate harms to the integrity of the investigation would be so extensive as to render the remaining unsealed text devoid of meaningful content.” It said that if the court ruled to lift partially unseal the affidavit, it “requests an opportunity to provide the Court with proposed redactions.”

The Department of Justice, however, does not object to the unsealing of other materials filed in connections with the search warrant, such as the government’s motion to seal. It is now up to the judge to make a decision on whether to lift the seal on the affidavit.

In addition to the court filings from the media, lawmakers from both the Republican and Democrat Party have requested to know the contents of the affidavit.

Trump’s lawyers, for their part, have asked the judge to return seized documents that would violate the right of defense of the former president, the so-called attorney-client privilege, as reported by the conservative Fox network, which not provide further details about the documents or evidence that they had been seized.

‘Oh great! It has just been learned that the FBI, in its now famous raid of Mar-a-Lago, took boxes of privileged ‘attorney-client’ material, and also ‘executive’ privileged material, which they knowingly should not have taken,’ the former president said on Truth Social, in reference to the Fox News report. “I respectfully request that these documents be immediately returned.”

In an interview with Fox on Monday, Trump said that he “will do whatever” he can to help the United States after the FBI raid, “because the temperature has to be brought down.” “If it isn’t, terrible things are going to happen,” he said. In that same interview, he also suggested that the FBI had planted evidence in his home and that he was the victim of a witch hunt – claims that are doing little to ease tensions in the US.

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