The Justice Department said Monday it opposes the release of an FBI affidavit used to justify the search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence last week, but added that it’s willing to release less descriptive documents.
“If disclosed, the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course, in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps,” federal prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
The DOJ said in a footnote that the release of even a redacted version of the affidavit “would not serve any public interest” due to the number of details that would have to be omitted.
The latest filing, signed by South Florida US attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez and Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt, mentioned a specific concern about outing cooperating witnesses and noted that some records cannot be released due to required grand jury secrecy.
“As the Court is aware from its review of the affidavit, it 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,” the filing said.
“In addition, information about witnesses is particularly sensitive given the high-profile nature of this matter and the risk that the revelation of witness identities would impact their willingness to cooperate with the investigation,” the document went on.
“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.”
Gonzalez and Bratt added that the Justice Department would be willing to release other documents, including cover sheets for the initial search warrant application, the government’s motion to seal the warrant and the sealing order issued by US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.
The unprecedented Aug. 8 raid on the Mar-a-Lago resort was related to Trump’s possible mishandling of classified documents, according to court records unsealed Friday.
“The fact that this investigation implicates highly classified materials further underscores the need to protect the integrity of the investigation,” the Justice Department said in its Monday filing.
The conservative legal group Judicial Watch and nearly a dozen news outlets are seeking the release of documents related to the search. The request is being considered by the US District Court for Southern Florida.
Trump said Friday that he wants all documents pertaining to the raid to be released.
“Not only will I not oppose the release of documents related to the unAmerican, unwarranted, and unnecessary raid and break-in of my home in Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago, I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents, even though they have been drawn up by radical left Democrats and possible future political opponents, who have a strong and powerful vested interest in attacking me, much as they have done for the last 6 years,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social network.
The Justice Department is investigating whether Trump broke three laws pertaining to the custody of government records, including the Espionage Act of 1917, according to court documents released Friday.
Trump claims he declassified any records stored at his residence and argued that some records may be protected by attorney-client privilege. Trump alleged Monday that FBI agents “stole my three Passports (one expired)” during the raid. An inventory of seized property, however, doesn’t mention passports.
In addition to reviewing Trump’s handling of documents, the Justice Department is investigating the ex-president’s actions to challenge his 2020 election loss, including by floating the selection of rival slates of electors from swing states.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said last week that he personally approved of the decision to raid Trump’s residence, but neither he nor FBI Director Christopher Wray has commented at length on the rationale for the operation.
Garland “deliberated for weeks” on whether to approve the raid, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, and now is considering whether the Justice Department should criminally charge Trump for mishandling records.
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