Mar-a-Lago affidavit: Judge to decide if key Trump document is unsealed

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A federal judge is hearing arguments on Thursday about whether to unseal the affidavit central to last week’s FBI search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida home, where agents have said they retrieved several boxes of classified government materials.

On one side, the Justice Department has argued that unsealing the court document could pose safety risks for named witnesses and undermine authorities’ ongoing investigation.

On the other side, multiple media outlets, including The Washington Post, have argued in court filings that the affidavit should be made public given the “historic importance of these events.”

Trump wants Mar-a-Lago affidavit released, as some aides ponder risk

Trump has denounced the inquiry as politically motivated, saying on social media this week that he believes the document should be unsealed with no redactions “in the interest of TRANSPARENCY.”

His lawyers, however, have not submitted any formal motion to the court declaring such a stance. Trump lawyer Christina Bobb appeared at the courthouse Thursday, saying she was in attendance to monitor the proceedings.

Jay Bratt, who heads the Justice Department’s counterintelligence and export control section, is arguing the government’s case opposite a slate of lawyers representing the news media. Bratt has been closely involved in the investigation, having visited Mar-a-Lago in June to examine the materials Trump had stored there. The counterintelligence and expert control section leads investigations into leaks of government secrets.

Former Justice Department officials who have closely followed the case have said the affidavit is unlikely to contain any “good” information for the former president and, as The Post reported earlier this week, Trump’s advisers had not reached a consensus on whether its disclosure would be in his best interest.

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Law enforcement officials submit such documents to a judge as part of their application for a search warrant. Affidavits typically contain information addressing why authorities think there is evidence at a certain property and other details about their investigation.

It has become the latest flash point in federal authorities’ ongoing criminal probe stemming from Trump’s dispute with the National Archives over materials taken from the White House when his term ended last year.

Late last week, federal Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart — with the Justice Department’s endorsement — unsealed the search warrant and an inventory list including broad descriptions of the classified materials federal agents say they recovered from Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s club and residence in South Florida.

Justice Department opposes release of Mar-a-Lago affidavit

Legal experts said the Justice Department’s reticence to publicize the document is consistent with how the agency typically conducts investigations and that it would be highly unusual for a judge to release the documents in full amid an ongoing investigation.

People who have conferred with Trump in recent days said the former president believes that any information made public about the investigation into his handling of classified material will rile his supporters, ultimately benefiting him politically.

But others in Trump’s orbit fear that such a move could backfire because they do not know exactly what it contains.

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