Trump wants Mar-a-Lago affidavit released as some aides ponder risks

Placeholder while article actions are loading

Former President Donald Trump has called on a judge to unlock the affidavit central to last week’s FBI search of his Florida home, believing any information made public about the investigation into his handling of classified material will excite his supporters and benefit him politically, according to people he has consulted with in recent days.

Some in Trump’s circle believe that releasing the document would give him additional ammunition to attack the integrity of the Justice Department’s investigation. Still others fear that such a move could backfire because they don’t know exactly what it entails, these people said. Like others, they spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss their private conversations with the former president.

Ministry of Justice opposes release of Mar-a-Lago . affidavit

The affidavit, which is likely to include witness names and other sensitive details about federal law enforcement’s methods and evidence, has emerged as the latest flashpoint in the ongoing criminal investigation arising from Trump’s dispute with the National Archives. on material taken from the White House when his term in office ended last year.

Following the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of its Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, multiple media outlets, including The Washington Post, asked a federal court there to release the affidavit. In their plea for the document’s disclosure, lawyers for the news organizations have called the “historical significance of these events.”

The Justice Department this week filed a motion to seal the document. The affidavit, officials argued, relates to “top secret information.” Releasing it, they argue, could hinder the ongoing investigation, jeopardize the safety of said witnesses and require so many redactions that the public would not understand the investigation better.

Then there is Trump, who harbors deep hostility to both institutions. Late Monday, the former president said in a post on the social media site he started, Truth Social, that “in the interest of TRANSPARENCY,” the affidavit should be released without editing.

A former senior Justice Department official who has been closely following the case doubts there is anything “good” for the former president in the affidavit.

“It’s an advocacy document,” this person said. While “everything must be true, there is no exculpatory information. It’s never a good story for the suspect.”

Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart convened a hearing Thursday afternoon. Trump’s legal team has until Thursday morning to file a motion in court if the former president formally appeals his release. His lawyers had not yet done so on Tuesday evening.

Trump’s search warrant focuses on classified information. What you need to know.

Trump stays at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey, huddled with a clique of aides. Much of his legal team isn’t there as the former president and his advisers try to recruit new attorneys who have done high-profile cases involving the Department of Justice and have experience dealing with court cases in Florida, said people familiar with the case.

Trump’s lawyers, these people added, have not received a full briefing on exactly what was taken from Mar-a-Lago, complicating discussions over the affidavit.

In addition, there is some confusion within Trump’s orbit about how much legal trouble he or others close to him may face, people familiar with the matter said. Many of his closest advisers have said they don’t know exactly what classified documents were stored in Mar-a-Lago’s boxes, while others last year encouraged him to return material taken from the White House, people said. were familiar with the matter.

And surveillance video of Mar-a-Lago captured for 60 days and subpoenaed by the Department of Justice shows people entering and exiting the warehouse where the classified documents were kept, one person with knowledge of the footage said.

A spokesman for the former president did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The intense public and political intrigue surrounding the affidavit has increased pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland as the federal investigation continues, observers say. There may be an insatiable desire for more information, but the Justice Department “can’t care much about it,” said Matthew Miller, a former spokesperson for the agency.

“The Justice Department is one of the few agencies that says that transparency for the sake of transparency doesn’t always make sense, especially in an ongoing situation,” he said. “They just have to do their job and if they get a slap for not telling the public something, they have to get a slap.”

Other legal experts said the Justice Department’s reluctance to publish the document is consistent with how the agency typically conducts investigations. And they noted that Garland — who makes relatively few public appearances — has already said more about this research than most.

Last week, Garland made an unusual public statement to the Justice Department, announcing that he has personally consented to the decision to seek court approval for a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago. He also called on a judge to release the search warrant and an inventory detailing the 11 sets of classified documents agents retrieved, but not the affidavit.

Those documents indicated that agents going to Mar-a-Lago were looking for evidence of possible violations of federal statutes, including a section of the Espionage Act that makes it a crime to possess or share national defense secrets without authorization.

“Merrick Garland has been talking about this in public for a few minutes more than he normally would,” said Stephen A. Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University and former deputy assistant attorney general in the government of Washington. George H.W. Bush. “The tradition in the department is to keep the research and its sources confidential. What makes this stand out is that this is the first time they’ve searched the home of a former president in this way.”

Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.