‘A Clear And Powerful Public Interest’: Judge Urged To Unseal FBI Mar-A-Lago Raid Affidavit

‘A Clear And Powerful Public Interest’: Judge Urged To Unseal FBI Mar-A-Lago Raid Affidavit

Several media organizations have urged a Florida judge to release most of an FBI affidavit which was used to justify the DOJ’s search warrant for last week’s raid on former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

A Palm Beach Police officer at the entrance of former US President Donald Trump’s house at Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on Aug. 9.Photographer: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg

According to a filing by the group, which includes the New York Times, AP and CNN, the public has a “clear and powerful interest” in what led to the unprecedented action by the DOJ against the sitting president’s top political opponent.

While the group says that the document should be released “with only those redactions that are necessary to protect a compelling interest articulated by the government,” the Justice Department says that such a redacted version of the affidavit would leave the document so devoid of content that it wouldn’t provide any insight.

The government has given “little explanation as to how release would harm the ongoing investigation” even though many details of the probe are already public, the group said in the filing in federal court in West Palm Beach, where US District Judge Bruce Reinhart will hold a hearing on the matter Thursday.

The affidavit provides the basis on which the judge authorized the search of Trump’s estate. The dispute over its release is the latest fallout from the Aug. 8 search, which culminated in FBI agents carting away 11 sets of classified documents in about 20 boxes. Threats against the FBI — and the judge — have jumped since then. –Bloomberg

“The secrecy surrounding the search warrant, and the affidavit that led to its issuance, has caused the nation to convulse with intrigue and harmful speculation that will only increase the longer the truth is kept from the public,” said Judicial Watch in a statement. “The heat must be replaced with light, and soon.”

Trump has also called for the document to be publicly released, though he hasn’t filed anything in court to back that up.

The request comes as Newsweek reports that the FBI raid was specifically intended to recover Trump’s personal “stash” of hidden documents – which reportedly deal with a “variety of intelligence matters of interest to the former president, the officials suggest—including material that Trump apparently thought would exonerate him of any claims of Russian collusion in 2016 or any other election-related charges.”

When Trump left the White House in January 2021, many of the normal processes of transition were not followed, especially because the president would not admit that he had lost the election or that he would be leaving office. As a result, we now know, some 42 boxes of documents were shipped to Mar-a-Lago by mistake: officials papers under U.S. law, which the National Archives is supposed to take custody of and catalog.

Over the past 18 months, the Trump camp and the Archives were engaged in a back-and-forth which resulted in the return of 15 boxes (and some additional documents). As late as June 3, when officials from the FBI and Justice visited Mar-a-Lago to serve a Grand Jury subpoena for specific documents, these negotiations were largely cordial. -Newsweek

Meanwhile, as Jack Phillips of the Epoch Times notes, a lawyer representing Trump, and a former FBI official, both expressed doubts that the affidavit used to seek an FBI search warrant for last week’s Mar-a-Lago raid will be unsealed by a judge on Thursday.

I don’t think anybody wants to unseal this thing inside the government,” Chris Swecker, a former assistant director of the FBI, told Fox News on Wednesday, adding that he doubts “very seriously you’re going to see this unsealed tomorrow.”

The former official was making reference to a hearing that was scheduled by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart for Thursday about whether the affidavit should be unsealed. The Department of Justice on Monday filed court papers arguing that it should not because releasing it to the public will damage their investigation.

But former Trump and other Republicans argue it should be released because it would show why the FBI took the unprecedented and extraordinary step of raiding the home of a former president and possible 2024 candidate.

Revealing the affidavit, they argue, would provide more insight into what the Department of Justice is trying to investigate and lay out reasons for why the raid was carried out. On Aug. 12, Reinhart issued an order to unseal the FBI search warrant and property receipt.

Lawyer’s Response

A lawyer for Trump, Alina Habba, echoed Swecker’s assertion that it appears unlikely the judge will unseal the affidavit on Thursday during a recent Fox News interview.

“Judge Reinhart is the same magistrate judge that recused himself from my Hillary [Clinton] case about a month ago. He is definitely not going to be a friendly judge necessarily. I would say it was highly unlikely,” Habba said, noting that the “DOJ is already saying that they do not want us to see what was in the affidavit.”

“Usually, that’s to protect witnesses and other things that have been cooperating with the justice system. So while I would love to see it and understand why you would ask for a raid with a cooperating president, do I believe that this judge is going to reveal it? No, I do not,” she said.

The Justice Department and the FBI have remained mostly silent regarding the raid, with Attorney General Merrick Garland issuing a statement during a news conference on Aug. 11. Garland said he personally authorized the warrant for the FBI raid but provided little to no insight about why it was carried out or what was taken from Trump’s home.

In statements posted on Truth Social, Trump wrote that FBI agents took three of his passports and demanded their return. A spokesperson for the former president confirmed on social media this week that the travel documents were handed back.

Tyler Durden
Thu, 08/18/2022 – 12:20

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