Some in Trump’s inner circle believe releasing the document would give him additional ammunition to attack the integrity of the Justice Department’s investigation. Still, others fear that such a decision could backfire because they don’t know exactly what’s in it, these people said. Like others, they spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss their private conversations with the former president.
The affidavit, which likely contains the names of witnesses and other sensitive details about federal law enforcement’s methods and evidence, emerged as the latest flashpoint in the ongoing criminal investigation stemming from the dispute. of Trump with the National Archives over documents from the White House when his term ended last year.
Following the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, multiple news outlets, including the Washington Post, petitioned a federal court to release the affidavit. In arguing for the disclosure of the document, lawyers for the news organizations cited “the historical significance of these events”.
The Justice Department filed a request this week to keep the document sealed. The affidavit, according to officials, relates to “highly classified information.” According to them, its publication could hamper the ongoing investigation, endanger the safety of the named witnesses and require so many deletions that it would not improve the public’s understanding of the investigation.
Then there is Trump, who harbors deep animosity for both institutions. Late Monday, in a post on the social media site he launched, Truth Social, the former president said that “in the interests of TRANSPARENCY” the affidavit should be released without redactions.
A former senior Justice Department official who has followed the case closely questioned that there was anything “good” for the former president in the affidavit.
“It’s an advocacy document,” the person said. While “everything must be true, there is no exculpatory information. It’s never a good story for the accused.
Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart convened a hearing Thursday afternoon. Trump’s legal team has until Thursday morning to file a motion with the court if the former president intends to make a formal appeal for his release. His lawyers had not done so on Tuesday evening.
Trump stays at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, huddling with a coterie of aides. Much of his legal team is not there as the former president and his aides seek to recruit new attorneys who have worked on high-profile cases involving the Justice Department and have defense experience. business in Florida, people familiar with the matter said.
Trump’s attorneys, these people added, have not been provided with full information on precisely what was taken at Mar-a-Lago, complicating discussions on the affidavit.
Additionally, there is some confusion in Trump’s orbit about what legal issues he or others close to him might face, people familiar with the matter said. Many of his close advisers said they were unsure what classified documents were stored in boxes at Mar-a-Lago while others last year encouraged him to return documents taken from the White House , said people familiar with the matter.
And Mar-a-Lago surveillance video that was captured for 60 days and subpoenaed by the Justice Department shows people entering and exiting the storage area where classified documents were kept, a person said. knowing the pictures.
A spokesperson for the former president did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The intense public and political intrigue surrounding the affidavit has amplified the pressure facing Attorney General Merrick Garland as the federal investigation continues, observers say. There may be an insatiable desire for more information, but the Justice Department “doesn’t care that much,” said Matthew Miller, a former spokesman for the agency.
“The Department of Justice is one of the few agencies that says transparency for transparency’s sake doesn’t always make sense, especially in an ongoing situation,” he said. “They just have to do their job and if they take a hit for not saying something to the public, they have to take a hit.”
Other legal experts said the Justice Department’s reluctance to release the document is consistent with how the agency typically conducts its investigations. And they noted that Garland – who makes relatively few public appearances – has already tell more about this survey than it does on most.
Last week, Garland made an unusual public statement to the Justice Department, announcing that he had personally authorized the decision to seek court permission for a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. He also asked a judge to release the search warrant and an inventory detailing the 11 sets of classified documents the officers recovered, but not the affidavit.
These documents indicated that the agents who went to Mar-a-Lago were looking for evidence of potential violations of federal laws, including a section of the Espionage Act that makes it a crime to possess or share secrets. national defense without authorization.
“Merrick Garland has already spent a few more minutes talking about it in public than he normally would,” said Stephen A. Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University and former assistant deputy attorney general of the United States. George HW Bush administration. “It is the tradition in the department to keep the investigation and the sources confidential. What stands out is that this is the first time they have searched the home of a former president like this.”
Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.