Justice Department opposes unsealing Trump’s FBI search warrant affidavit

The Justice Department said in court documents Monday that it opposes the release of the FBI affidavit used to justify the Search warrant on the old President Donald Trump’s primary residence at Mar-a-Lago.

In Monday’s filing, prosecutors said the affidavit contained sensitive information regarding the testimony of witnesses in the inquest, later adding that they feared the release of the requested documents would “chill” future testimony from other potential witnesses.

While the Justice Department did not object to the search warrant being released last week, the department argued Monday in a filing in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida that the affidavit should remain sealed “to protect the integrity of an applicable law enforcement investigation that involves national security.”

A judge will make the final decision as to whether the affidavit should be unsealed.

The the search warrant was unsealed on Friday, and he revealed that federal law enforcement officials were investigating the former president for violating laws governing the suppression or destruction of documents, obstructing an investigation and a provision of the Espionage Act relating to collection, transmission or loss of defense information.

Aerial view of Mar-a-Lago, Billiona's beachfront estate
UNITED STATES – JAN 22: Aerial view of Mar-a-Lago, billionaire Donald Trump’s beachfront estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

John Roca/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Documents unsealed on Friday included a property receipt from the August 8 search indicating that the The FBI had seized 11 sets of classified documents, including four sets marked “top secret”. The FBI also seized photos and information about the president of France, among other things.

Several media, including CBS News, filed petitions with the court last week to gain access to all documents — including the underlying affidavits — related to the search warrant. The affidavit will likely contain key details about the government’s investigation of Trump.

But while the Justice Department has “carefully considered whether the affidavit can be released subject to redactions,” it said in Monday’s court filing that “redactions necessary to mitigate damage to the integrity of the investigation would be so extensive as to render the remaining unsealed text devoid of significant content, and the publication of such a redacted version would serve no public interest.”

“Nevertheless, should the Court order the partial unsealing of the affidavit, the government respectfully requests the opportunity to provide the Court with proposed redactions,” the Justice Department continued.

The Justice Department said it would be permitted to unseal other documents related to the search warrant, the government’s motion to seal the search warrant, and the cover sheets associated with the search warrant.

In January, National Archives officials recovered 15 boxes of presidential records from Mar-a-Lago, some of which contained classified information. In July, a certified trump lawyer investigators that all classified documents had been turned over to the National Archives.

Trump claimed last week that he declassified all material seized at Mar-a-Lago while still in office. Although a sitting president has broad declassification capability, Representative Adam Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on “Confront the NationSunday that he saw no evidence that Trump declassified the material while in office. Further, Schiff said the authority to declassify the material does not extend to a former president, and he called it “a ‘absurd’ that Trump is claiming ’18 months after the fact’ that he had retroactively declassified the documents he brought to Mar-a-Lago.

Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton told CBS News’ Robert Costa that Trump’s handling of classified documents “worried him”.

According to Bolton, intelligence informants would bring pictures or graphics for the president to see and hand over to him.

“A lot of times the president would say, ‘Well, can I keep this?’ And in my experience, intelligence informants most often said, “Well, sir, we’d rather take that out,” Bolton said. “But sometimes they forgot.”

Earlier this year, the National Archives asked the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s handling of the records. The National Archives also said at the time that some of the documents Trump gave them had been torn and glued together.

Trump allies at the House Judiciary Committee on Monday sent letters to senior Biden administration officials demanding that they send documents and communications to Congress about the FBI’s search of Trump’s residence.

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