FBI’s Sealed Evidence That Led to Courtroom Search of Trump’s House

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida, Aug. 18 (Reuters) – Sealed documents containing evidence presented by the United States Department of Justice to gain court approval to search Donald Trump’s Florida home will take center stage on Thursday. a hearing, when news organizations will try to convince a federal judge the public deserves to see the details.

The Justice Department has resisted the release of the affidavit containing the evidence, giving investigators suspected reasons to believe crimes were committed at Trump’s Palm Beach home.

The search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort was part of a federal investigation into whether Trump illegally removed documents when he left office in January 2021 after losing the presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.

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The Justice Department is investigating violations of three laws, including a provision in the Espionage Act that prohibits possession of national defense information and another that makes it a crime to knowingly destroy, conceal or falsify data for the purpose of an investigation. to hinder.

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Attorneys from several media outlets, including The New York Times, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, ABC News and NBC News, will ask U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart on Thursday to review the affidavit and other related materials filed with the court. and say that the public has right to know and the historical significance of the search outweighs any argument for keeping the documents sealed.

“The affidavit of probable cause must be made public, with only those redactions necessary to protect a compelling interest expressed by the government,” lawyers for the media companies wrote in a filing with the court.

Trump, in statements on social media, has called on the court to disclose the unedited version of the affidavit “in the interest of transparency.” But none of his attorneys have filed a petition with West Palm Beach federal court to do so.

Trump says the search was politically motivated. He also said, without providing evidence, that he had a standing order to release the documents in question.

However, none of the three laws cited by the Department of Justice in the search warrant require proof that the documents are, in fact, classified.

Threats against FBI agents have increased since the raid.

In Ohio, police last week shot and killed an armed man after he tried to break into an FBI building. Meanwhile, a second man in Pennsylvania has been charged with threats against FBI agents.

Trump’s rhetoric against the FBI has resonated with Republican voters, 54% of whom say federal law enforcement officers have acted irresponsibly in the case, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll found this week. read more

The search for Mar-a-Lago marked a significant escalation in one of the many federal and state investigations Trump faces since his term in office and in private affairs. The Republican former president has suggested he could return to the White House in 2024, but has made no commitment.

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland took the highly unusual step of publicly disclosing the search warrant, two attachments, and an edited version of the receipt showing the items the FBI seized during its Aug. 8 search.

The records showed that the FBI seized boxes containing 11 sets of classified material, some of which had been labeled “top secret” — the highest level of classification reserved for the most meticulous U.S. national security information. read more

Such documents are usually kept in special government facilities because disclosure can cause serious damage to national security.

Earlier this week, the Justice Department said it is open to releasing some additional redacted material from the warrant, such as cover sheets, the government’s motion to seal and the court’s seal order.

The media in the case has also asked for those records to be unlocked as well.

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Reporting by Brian Ellsworth in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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