US Justice Dept opposes efforts to unseal Trump search affidavit

Media had sought release of affidavit the government submitted when it requested search warrant for Donald Trump’s home.

Donald Trump waves as he departs Trump Tower in New York City.
The US Justice Department argued that the affidavit it submitted to get a warrant to search ex-President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home earlier this month contains sensitive information that could compromise its ongoing investigation [File: David 'Dee' Delgado/Reuters]

The United States Justice Department has opposed efforts by media organisations to unseal the affidavit that backed the search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, saying the document contains sensitive material.

In a court filing, prosecutors said on Monday that they will not oppose the release of other sealed documents tied to the recent search of Trump’s Florida estate, such as cover sheets and the government’s motion to seal.

But releasing the affidavit itself could harm the ongoing investigation, the department said.

“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,” prosecutors wrote in their filing.

The government’s opposition came in response to court filings by several news organisations, including The Associated Press news agency, seeking to unseal the underlying affidavit the Justice Department submitted when it asked for the warrant to search Trump’s estate earlier this month.

Trump’s Republican allies in recent days have ramped up their calls for Attorney General Merrick Garland to unseal the document.

It would reveal the evidence that prosecutors showed to demonstrate they had probable cause to believe crimes were committed at Trump’s home — the standard they had to meet to secure the search warrant.

A property receipt unsealed on Friday showed the FBI seized 11 sets of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago, with some marked not only top secret but also “sensitive compartmented information”, a special category meant to protect the nation’s most important secrets that if revealed publicly could cause “exceptionally grave” damage to US interests.

The court records did not provide specific details about information the documents might contain.

The search warrant, also unsealed on Friday, said federal agents were investigating potential violations of three different federal laws, including one that governs gathering, transmitting or losing defence information under the Espionage Act.

The other statutes address the concealment, mutilation or removal of records and the destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.

The Justice Department acknowledged on Monday that its ongoing criminal investigation “implicates highly classified material”.

It said in its court filing that making the affidavit public would “cause significant and irreparable damage” to its probe.

The document, the prosecutors said, details “highly sensitive information about witnesses”, including people who have been interviewed by the government, and contains confidential grand jury information.

Source: News Agencies