Justice Department objects to release of affidavit used to search Trump’s home

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department on Monday objected to releasing the affidavit used to justify the search of former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida home, saying its release would “compromise future investigative steps.” and “probably quiet” cooperation with witnesses.

In a 13-page statement filed in federal court in South Florida in response to requests from The New York Times and other news organizations to release evidence included in the document, prosecutors suggested the department has carry out extensive and intensive research. in the management of Mr. Trump of some of the government’s most secret documents after leaving office.

Prosecutors acknowledged interviewing witnesses in connection with the investigation into Mr. trump They also wrote that releasing the document could compromise the continuation of the investigation.

“Disclosure of the government’s affidavit at this stage could also inhibit the future cooperation of witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses,” prosecutors wrote. They added that releasing the affidavit could also prejudice “other high-profile investigations”.

One of the government’s proposed reasons for not releasing the affidavit was to protect the identities of witnesses against death threats. On Monday, Pennsylvania prosecutors unveiled charges against a man accused of repeatedly threatening to kill FBI agents in the days after the search of Mr. Trump’s property.

The magistrate judge who signed the search warrant, Bruce E. Reinhart, will ultimately decide whether the affidavit should be released. It is unclear when he will rule on the media’s request.

The legal and political repercussions of the search were still reverberating a week after FBI agents showed up at the compound 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 digging into his family’s holdings, claimed on Monday that the government “stole all three of my passports” , in a post on Truth Social. the online platform he founded.

Late Monday, the Justice Department admitted the error and contacted Mr. Trump to retrieve the three passports — two of them expired and the third an active diplomatic passport, according to one of the former president’s lawyers, Evan Corcoran, and a spokesman. for the department.

In a statement late Monday, the FBI said it “follows court-ordered search and seizure procedures, then returns items that do not need to be retained for law enforcement.”

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Garland agreed last week to release the warrant used to search Mr. Trump’s private club, but has resisted attempts to make public the underlying affidavit, a much more sensitive document that is supposed to contain, among other things, the reasons why prosecutors believe there was probable cause. cause evidence of a crime could be found at Mar-a-Lago, the estate of Mr. Trump in Palm Beach, Florida.

The probe into the mishandling of government documents, although known for months, was not considered as significant as the department’s sprawling investigation into the Capitol attack, which has been closing in on Mr. Trump and the his main advisors.

Federal agents seized 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 made public on Friday.

At least one Trump lawyer signed a written statement in June saying all material marked classified and kept in boxes in a storage area at Mar-a-Lago had been returned to the government, four people familiar with the matter said. they knew the document. .

Although the former president fought back, new details emerged of how Mr. Trump and his inner circle ignored the rules, and possibly the laws, governing their handling of government records.

According to two people with knowledge of the situation, Mr. Trump and his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, the man who oversaw presidential records in the chaotic days of the administration shutdown, were unable to organize an effort to collect , package and deliver materials to the National Archives, like past presidents, and Mr. Vice President himself. Trump, Mike Pence, they did.

Instead, they often focused on settling political grievances and personal grudges, they said.

In the weeks before the departure of Mr. Trump from the White House, officials discussed what to do with the material he had brought to various points in the residence and that it had to be properly stored and returned.

By then, the staff secretary, Derek Lyons, known for trying to keep systems in place, had left the administration. Mr. Meadows said he would address those issues, according to a senior administration official.

While all this was happening, a very different scenario was playing out across West Executive Avenue, in Mr. Pence’s less frenetic office.

As Mr. Trump tried to hold on to power, two of Mr. Pence’s top aides, Marc Short, his chief of staff, and Greg Jacob, his lawyer, indexed and packed away all of his government’s papers, according to three former officials with knowledges. of the work

Mr. Jacob spent most of his final days in government preparing the final boxes, aiming to ensure that Mr. Pence left office without a single piece of paper that didn’t belong to him, one of the officials said.

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