On Monday, the Justice Department told a federal judge that disclosing the affidavit police used to get a search warrant at the former president’s home would compromise an active investigation.
In a court filing, federal prosecutors opposed any efforts to unseal the document outlining probable cause for the search. The filing came days after they agreed to make public a copy of the search warrant and a receipt detailing the items confiscated from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
A different set of factors are presented in the affidavit that backs up the search warrant, the filing says. “There remain compelling reasons that support keeping the affidavit sealed,” the court wrote. “These include protecting the integrity of an ongoing law enforcement investigation that implicates national security.”
When asking a judge to sign off on a search warrant, prosecutors usually present affidavits from local law enforcement. In order to satisfy the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of “probable cause,” an investigation must produce documents like these that summarize the evidence gathered thus far.
The affidavit used to obtain the Mar-a-Lago warrant is classified, and its release would do “significant and irreparable damage to this ongoing criminal investigation,” according to a court filing submitted on Monday and signed by DOJ counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Juan Antonio Gonzalez.
The affidavit contains “highly sensitive information regarding witnesses, including witnesses interviewed by the government; specific investigative techniques; and information required by law to be kept under seal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e),” the DOJ officials wrote, referring to a rule governing grand jury secrecy.
Some said that if law enforcement disclosed sensitive investigation details, it could discourage witnesses from helping, and it could also compromise the safety of cooperating witnesses by revealing their identities.
According to a footnote in the filing, “this is not merely a hypothetical concern, given the widely reported threats made against law enforcement personnel in the wake of the August 8 search.”
Prior to the warrant’s release on Friday, several news organizations had filed motions in court to unseal material used in the warrant application. On Monday, the Justice Department requested that the matter be resolved by a federal magistrate judge without the need for a hearing.
Last updated on Nov. 29 at 5:39 p.m.
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