Trump wants Mar-a-Lago affidavit released; aides weigh risk

 

People who have spoken with the former president in recent days say he believes any information made public about the investigation into his handling of classified material will electrify his supporters and benefit him politically, which is why he has asked a judge to unseal the affidavit central to last week’s FBI search of his Florida home.

There are those in Trump’s inner circle who think he could use the memo as more fodder to question the legitimacy of the investigation being conducted by the Justice Department if he were to make it public. Others, however, have voiced concern that this strategy would backfire because of the lack of clarity on its contents. They, like others who have spoken about private interactions with the ex-president, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Since Trump’s dispute with the National Archives over materials taken from the White House when his term ended last year, the affidavit has emerged as the latest flash point in the ongoing criminal investigation. The affidavit is likely to contain witness names and other sensitive details about federal law enforcement’s methods and evidence.

 

 

 

Many news organizations, including The Washington Post, requested the affidavit’s public publication after the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida on August 8. The lawyers for the media outlets have emphasized the “historic importance of these events” in their request for public release of the document.

This Monday, the Justice Department made a formal request for the document to remain sealed. Officials contended that the document included “highly secret material.” They argue that making it public would do more harm than good because it could compromise ongoing investigations, endanger key witnesses, and necessitate so many redactions that the document would not be useful to the general public.

And then there’s Trump, who has nothing but contempt for both the military and the federal government. The former president called for the full release of the affidavit, with no redactions, in a post he made late Monday on the social media platform he founded, Truth Social.

A former high-ranking official in the Justice Department who has followed the case carefully expressed scepticism that the declaration had any “positive” information for the ex-president.

Someone else described it as “an advocacy document.” Although “everything must be true,” no mitigating evidence is available. “Defendant’s side of the story is never compelling.”

Bruce E. Reinhart, the magistrate judge, has scheduled a hearing for this Thursday at 3:00. If Trump’s legal team wants to formally argue for its release, they have until Thursday morning to file a motion with the court. As of Tuesday night, neither he nor his lawyers had done so.

Trump is still at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, where he is surrounded by advisors. People familiar with the situation say the former president and his advisors are looking to hire fresh lawyers who have expertise fighting cases in Florida and have worked on high-profile matters involving the Justice Department.

According to these sources, conversations surrounding the affidavit are complicated since Trump’s attorneys have not been given a comprehensive briefing on exactly what was taken from Mar-a-Lago.

Furthermore, many close to Trump are unsure of the extent of any potential legal trouble for themselves or their boss, according to others with knowledge of the situation. According to those acquainted with the situation, many of his closest advisers have claimed they do not know what sensitive documents were held in boxes at Mar-a-Lago, while others have urged him to return the items he removed from the White House in 2017.

A person familiar with the Mar-a-Lago security footage said that it was recorded over the course of 60 days and was subpoenaed by the Justice Department to indicate who entered and exited the storage facility where the classified materials were kept.

A spokesperson for the ex-president did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland to get results from the ongoing FBI inquiry has increased, analysts say, due to the public and political interest in the affidavit. Former Justice Department spokesperson Matthew Miller has remarked, “cannot care that much about it,” despite the apparent ravenous thirst for knowledge.

He noted that the Justice Department was “one of the few agencies” to argue that “disclosure for the sake of transparency doesn’t always make sense,”, especially in an ongoing crisis. They must carry out their duties, even if it means taking criticism for keeping information from the public.

 

 

Others in the legal community have noted that the Justice Department’s reluctance to make the material public is consistent with the department’s normal investigative practices. They also pointed out that Garland, who rarely speaks in public, has revealed more about this inquiry than he has about any other.

Garland made an unprecedented public announcement last week at the Justice Department, saying that he had approved the move to seek a warrant to search Mar-a-Lago. Not only did he request that the affidavit be made public, but also the search warrant and inventory of the 11 sets of classified papers that were retrieved by agents.

According to the papers, federal investigators who visited Mar-a-Lago were looking for evidence of possible violations of federal legislation, like as the Espionage Act, which makes it illegal to possess or divulge national defense secrets without authorization.

Professor of law at George Washington University and former deputy assistant attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration Stephen A. Saltzburg remarked, “Merrick Garland has already spent a few more minutes talking about this in public than he typically would.” The policy of the department has always been to protect the privacy of its investigations and their sources. That this is the first such search of a former president’s house makes it noteworthy.