The Justice Department is expected to release a heavily masked document on Friday explaining the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s estate in Florida earlier this month when agents deleted top-secret government files and other confidential documents. .
The document, which is expected to be released at noon, should provide at least some new details about the ongoing criminal investigation, posing new legal risks for Trump as he lays the groundwork for another presidential bid. While Justice Department officials are expected to redact sensitive witness details, as well as the scope and direction of the investigation, the affidavit may provide the most comprehensive explanation yet of the events leading up to at the August 8 search at Mar-a-Lago. .
The released documents are redacted affidavits, or sworn statements, that the FBI submitted to a judge in order to obtain a warrant to search Trump’s property. The affidavit usually contains important information about the investigation, with the attorney explaining to the judge why he is looking for a particular property and why he thinks he can find evidence of a potential crime there. But the affidavits usually remain sealed during ongoing investigations, which makes the judge’s decision to reveal some of them all the more compelling.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Bruce Reinhart acknowledged the investigation was of extraordinary public interest, ordering the department to release a redacted affidavit by Friday. The directive comes hours after federal law enforcement officials sealed the filing of some of the affidavits they want to keep secret as the investigation progresses.
Given the sensitivity of the investigation, revisions proposed by the DOJ are likely to be broad, reducing the likelihood that the paper will thoroughly examine the basis of the unprecedented research or provide important guidance information. of the investigation. However, even the redacted affidavit may at least contain new revelations about the investigation and may help explain why federal agents who have been trying to recover sensitive government documents from Mar-a-Lago for months have finally felt compelled to get a search. Manufacture.
Documents that have been made public show that the FBI recovered 11 sets of classified documents from the property, including information marked as top secret. They also said federal agents were investigating possible violations of three different federal laws, including one governing the collection, transmission or loss of defense information under the Espionage Act. Other regulations deal with the concealment, destruction or deletion of records, and the destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.
The affidavits, especially the unredacted ones, could reveal key unanswered questions, including why sensitive presidential documents — including classified documents — were shipped to Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House, and why Trump and his representatives, despite repeated pleas, have not done so. provide the National Archives and Records Administration with all materials.
He could also provide more details about Trump’s back and forth with the FBI, including a subpoena issued last spring and a June visit by FBI and Justice Department officials to assess how the material was stored. .
The Justice Department previously questioned the media group’s argument that part of the affidavit had been made public, saying the disclosure could contain private information about witnesses and investigative tactics. But Reinhart, who has acknowledged the investigation is of great public interest, said last week he was reluctant to keep the entire document private and asked federal officials to submit desired edits to him privately. .
Reinhardt said in Thursday’s order that the department made a compelling case to seal off most of the document, which, if released, would leak information to the grand jury; witnesses and “non-accused” the identity of the parties”; and details of the “strategy, focus, scope, sources and methods” of the investigation.
But he also said he was satisfied that “the government has borne the burden of proving that its proposed amendments are appropriate to the government’s legitimate interest in the integrity of the ongoing investigation and that the entire affidavit is sealed. The least bulky option.