WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Monday objected to the release of the affidavit used to justify the search of former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida home, saying the release “would jeopardize future investigative steps.” bring” and the collaboration with witnesses “probably chill”.
In a 13-page plea filed in a federal court in South Florida in response to requests from DailyExpertNews and other news organizations to release the evidence in the document, prosecutors suggested the department had conducted a broad, intensive investigation. set in the way Mr. Trump handled some of the administration’s most secretive documents after he left office.
Prosecutors have acknowledged hearing witnesses in connection with Mr Trump’s investigation into the custody of the material. They also wrote that releasing the document could jeopardize the ongoing investigation.
“Disclosure of the government’s affidavit at this stage would also likely inhibit future cooperation of witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses,” prosecutors wrote. They added that releasing the affidavit could also harm “other high-profile investigations”.
One of the reasons the government proposed not to release the affidavit was to protect the identities of witnesses from death threats. On Monday, prosecutors in Pennsylvania unlocked the charges against a man accused of repeatedly threatening to murder FBI agents in the days after Mr. Trump’s property was searched.
The magistrate who signed the search warrant, Bruce E. Reinhart, will ultimately decide whether the affidavit should be released. It is unclear when he will decide on the news media’s request.
The legal — and political — aftershocks of the search still reverberated a week after FBI agents showed up at the resort while the president was at his club in Bedminster, NJ.
Mr. Trump, who has accused Attorney General Merrick B. Garland of conducting a politically motivated “witch hunt” and crudely searching his family’s belongings, claimed Monday that the government “stole my three passports,” in a statement. message on Truth Social, the online platform he founded.
By the end of Monday, the Justice Department admitted to the error and contacted Mr. Trump’s legal team to retrieve the three passports — two of which had expired and the third was an active diplomatic passport, according to one of the lawyers. from former president, Evan Corcoran, and a spokesperson for the department.
Mr. Garland agreed last week to release the search warrant used to search Mr. Trump’s private club, but has resisted attempts to release the underlying affidavit, a much more sensitive document that included the should contain reasons why prosecutors think that evidence of a crime could probably be found at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump in Palm Beach, Florida.
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The investigation into the mishandling of government documents, while known for months, was not deemed as important as the department’s extensive investigation into the Capitol attack, which has drawn closer and closer to Mr Trump and his top advisers.
Federal agents removed top-secret documents when they searched Mr. Trump’s residence last week as part of an investigation into possible violations of the Espionage Act and other laws, according to a search warrant released Friday.
At least one of Mr. Trump’s attorneys signed a written statement in June claiming that all material marked as classified and kept in boxes in a storage facility in Mar-a-Lago had been returned to the government, four people with knowledge of the document. .
Even as the former president counterattacked, new details emerged about how Mr. Trump and his inner circle flouted the standards, and possibly the laws, that govern their handling of government documents.
According to two people aware of the situation, Mr Trump and his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, the man who oversaw presidential files during the administration’s chaotic shutdown, failed to make an attempt to extract materials. collect, box, and deliver to the National Archives — as previous presidents, and Mr. Trump’s own Vice President, Mike Pence, did.
Instead, they often focused on resolving political grievances and personal resentments, they said.
In the weeks leading up to Mr. Trump’s departure from the White House, officials discussed what to do with material he brought to the residence at various points that needed to be properly stored and returned.
By this time, the staff secretary, Derek Lyons, who was known for his efforts to keep systems in place, had left the administration. Mr Meadows said he would address such issues, according to a senior government official.
While all this was happening, a very different scenario was playing out across West Executive Avenue, in Mr. Pence’s less frantic office.
As Mr. Trump tried to stay in power, two of Mr. Pence’s top aides — Marc Short, his chief of staff, and Greg Jacob, his defense counsel — indexed and boxed all of his government papers, according to three former officials with knowledge. of work matters.
Mr Jacob spent most of his last few days in government preparing the final boxes, aiming to ensure that Mr Pence left office without a single piece of paper that did not belong to him, one of them said. the officials.