DOJ says release of Mar-a-Lago affidavit would harm ongoing criminal investigation

“The fact that this investigation involves highly classified materials further underscores the need to protect the integrity of the investigation and exacerbates the potential for harm if the information is prematurely or incorrectly disclosed to the public,” Justice Department officials wrote. .

Instead, the DOJ urges the court to open a redacted document that includes additional filings related to the search warrant, including a cover page, the DOJ’s motion to seal the warrant on August 5, and the judge’s sealing order issued on the same day.

One of the Justice Department’s concerns about disclosing the underlying information is that witnesses could become uncooperative, particularly “given the high-profile nature of this matter.”

“Release of the government affidavit at this stage would also likely undermine the future cooperation of witnesses whose assistance may be requested as this investigation progresses, as well as in other high-profile investigations,” Gonzalez and Bratt say, adding. “This is not simply a hypothetical concern, given the widely publicized threats against law enforcement personnel in the wake of the August 8 search.”

Throughout the presentation, the DOJ references its ongoing criminal investigation related to the search, an investigation that last week’s search warrant release revealed includes possible crimes related to the mishandling of classified materials and presidential records, as well as obstruction of justice. Revealing the affidavit, the Justice Department said Monday, would jeopardize that investigation.

“Here, the government has a compelling and overriding interest in preserving the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation,” Justice Department officials argued.

The filing cites news reports of an increase in threats against FBI agents, as well as an attack by a gunman on an FBI building in Cincinnati last week.

Although the magistrate judge overseeing the case, Bruce Reinhart, is not bound by the DOJ’s request to keep the affidavit secret, it would represent an extremely rare step, even in cases of minor national importance. The DOJ acknowledged that the decision is up to Reinhart and said that if he chooses to release the affidavit, the department will propose significant redactions “so extensive as to leave the remaining unsealed text without significant content.”

“Publication of such a redacted version would not serve any public interest,” González and Bratt wrote.

House and Senate lawmakers from both parties have demanded additional details related to the search conducted at Trump’s home, which was related to an effort to recover highly classified documents and other presidential records that Trump had stored there.

Affidavits supporting search warrants are usually sealed until charges are issued or an investigation is closed. They are typically provided by an FBI agent involved in the case and attest to the reasons the bureau believes there is probable cause for a crime.

Nicholas Wu and Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.

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