US Judge to weigh whether unsealing affidavit for Mar-a-Lago raid will jeopardize Trump investigation
4 lingering misconceptions about the FBI raid on Trump's Mar-a-Lago
Trumpworld is sowing doubt about what happened during the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. Feds are starting to provide some answers, but confusion reigns.Memories of Mar-a-Lago came flooding back Monday night when the news broke that the FBI had executed a search warrant on Donald Trump's permanent residence.
A federal magistrate in Florida is set to hold a hearing Thursday on whether to make public the probable cause affidavit used to justify the FBI's raid of formerMar-a-Lago estate.
The hearing is in response to several media outlets asking the court to make the affidavit public to understand the reasoning for a raid on the home of a former commander-in-chief.
Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who green-lit the original search warrant Aug. 5, is slated to, although it is unclear whether he will make a decision from the bench or take the case under advisement.
Trump talked his way into the DOJ asking for the release of the Mar-a-Lago search warrant
The DOJ said in a court filing that it decided to request the search warrant's release after Trump announced it and sparked a public firestorm.At a press conference, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department had taken the unusual step "in light of the former president's public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances, and the substantial public interest in this matter." The attorney general also confirmed that he personally signed offon the pursuit of a warrant to search Trump's home.
The hearing comes as political tensions have heightened since news of the FBI's raid on Mar-a-Lago first broke last week over Trump's purported failure to hand over presidential records and classified documents to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
Trump, for his part, claims that his staff was working with the National Archives to provide the documents as required under the Presidential Records Act of 1978.
"Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before," Trump said in a statement last week. "After working and cooperating with the relevant government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate."
Trump allies insist FBI raid, potential Espionage Act investigation only strengthen his standing in a 2024 Republican presidential primary
One Republican strategist claimed that the investigation "makes him pretty much unbeatable in a primary."On Friday, a federal judge unsealed a search warrant and receipt of goods that shows the Department of Justice seized top secret documents from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort and that he could be charged with obstructing an investigation and violating the Espionage Act.
Trump also claims that seized documents were declassified and therefore not subject to special safeguarding requirements. Given the denials, GOP lawmakers have called for theto make public its affidavit laying out its justification for a search warrant for the home of a former president.
"They can redact the names and other sensitive information, but DOJ must lay their cards on the table," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "Media speculation is rampant … Let America see the affidavit."
Attorney General Merrick Garland and the DOJ are pushing back on demands for the document to be made public. The Justice Department has said thatwould breach longstanding legal precedent, potentially jeopardize the government's investigation and expose any confidential sources.
"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," the DOJ said in a court filing earlier this week opposing the affidavit's release.
The far right is calling for civil war after the FBI raid on Trump's home. Experts say that fight wouldn't look like the last one.
"People's sense of the civil and civic ways of resolving disputes" is "out the window," Fiona Hill told Insider, warning of the potential for "civil conflict."Just a small crowd of supporters had gathered as of 2 p.m. Several people who said they were part of Club 45 — an independent Trump-supporting organization — said more people would assemble from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., after people were done working for the day. Traffic was becoming more backed up by 3 p.m. By 5 p.m., about 60 people had gathered on the bridge.
Usually, an affidavit listing the probable cause foris not unsealed until after an indictment or arrest is made. That precedent has been broken in the past, however, especially in extraordinary circumstances.
Legal experts say that a raid on the home ofis sufficient cause.
"In these cases, the court balances the public's interest against the need for continued secrecy," said Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University Law School. "This was a historic raid that has caused a great deal of public unrest. Millions of Americans are questioning the motivation of the Justice Department."
Much of the debate centers on what is included in the affidavit and whether it can be made public without undercutting any ongoing investigation.
Armed Trump supporters protest outside FBI office in Phoenix following Mar-a-Lago raid: reports
Donald Trump supporters, some armed with semi-automatic rifles and handguns, held "Abolish FBI" signs outside the office in Phoenix, Arizona.My visits there as a White House reporter for Politico more than five years ago came during the earliest days of Trump's presidency. They gave me an up-close look into all of the controversy and celebrity hoopla that surrounded a man who just months earlier had become the most powerful person on the planet.
"The affidavit of probable cause is usually based upon more than just one interview or one piece of information. It's usually a series of steps that explain the reason for why you believe aand where the evidence is located," said Ken Gray, a former FBI agent and lecturer in criminal justice at the University of New Haven.
"A lot depends on the details that are within the document. Even a redaction may still end up revealing the sources, especially if only certain people are known to hold that information."
In filing to oppose unsealing the affidavit, the Justice Department argued that the act could damage the government's ability to entice sources to come forward.
"Disclosure of the government’s affidavit at this stage would also likely chill future cooperation by witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses, as well as in other high-profile investigations," the DOJ wrote.
Experts say that there is a larger issue at play, mainly the credibility of the Justice Department in investigating one ofand a likely 2024 opponent. Those questions have only grown amid leaks surrounding the raid that have revealed insight into the DOJ's conduct.
Given that reality, legal experts say the Justice Department should make at least some effort to be transparent about its case for.
"The Justice Department continues to operate as if everyone is asking for full disclosure," said Turley. "They can redact portions of the affidavit. They can allow the court to review the redaction and make judgments as to how sensitive the provisions might be. But they oppose it wholesale to the detriment of the American public."
DOJ submits redacted Mar-a-Lago search affidavit to judge for possible release .
Occurred on August 5, 2022 / Freehold, New Jersey, USA: "My puppy was half awake and fell down the stairs at our home."