Monday, March 4, 2024

Judge Unseals Additional Portions of Mar-a-Lago Affidavit

'The government and the public unquestionably have an interest in the timely enforcement of criminal laws, particularly those involving the protection of highly sensitive information...'

(Headline USA) A federal judge Tuesday unsealed additional portions of an FBI affidavit laying out the basis for a search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home.

The newly unredacted details, released by Judge Bruce Reinhart, appeared to show that, prior to the Aug. 8 raid, agents had obtained a hard drive after issuing a subpoena for surveillance footage recorded inside Mar-a-Lago.

A heavily redacted version of the affidavit was made public last month, but the Justice Department requested permission to show more of it after lawyers for Trump revealed the existence of a June grand jury subpoena that sought video footage from cameras in the vicinity of the Mar-a-Lago storage room.

“Because those aspects of the grand jury’s investigation have now been publicly revealed, there is no longer any reason to keep them sealed (i.e. redacted) in the filings in this matter,” department lawyers wrote.

The newly visible portions of the FBI agent’s affidavit show that the FBI on June 24 subpoenaed for the footage after a visit weeks earlier to Mar-a-Lago, in which agents observed 50 to 55 boxes of records in the storage room at the property.

The Trump Organization provided a hard drive on July 6 in response to the subpoena, the affidavit says.

The footage could be an important piece of the investigation, including as agents evaluate whether anyone has sought to obstruct the probe.

The Justice Department has said in a separate filing that it has “developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”

The Justice Department has been investigating the holding of top-secret information and other classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House. FBI agents during their Aug. 8 search of the home and club said they recovered more than 11,000 documents and 1,800 other items, including roughly 100 with classification markings.

Trump, however, has maintained that the records were all being held legally under the Presidential Records Act, which plainly states that the president, while in office, has the authority to declassify documents at his own discretion.

Trump announced in his final week as president that he was declassifying all documents related to the Russia-collusion hoax, in which the FBI itself has been implicated.

None of the charges cited in the probable cause section of the affidavit—including obstruction and violations of the Espionage Act—would require the Justice Department to prove that the documents in question were classified, leading some to suspect that the entire operation is a politically motivated legal trap under the direction of President Joe Biden.

Separately Tuesday, the Justice Department again urged U.S. District Aileen Cannon to lift her hold on core aspects of the investigation.

Cannon last week granted the Trump team’s request for an independent arbiter to review the seized documents and weed out from the investigation any records that may be covered by claims of executive or attorney–client privilege.

She also ordered the department to halt its review of the records pending any further court order or the completion of a review by the yet-to-be-named special master.

The department urged Cannon last week to put her order on hold and told the judge Tuesday that its investigation would be harmed by a continued delay of its ability to scrutinize the classified documents.

“The government and the public unquestionably have an interest in the timely enforcement of criminal laws, particularly those involving the protection of highly sensitive information, and especially where, as here, there may have been efforts to obstruct its investigation,” the lawyers wrote.

The Trump team on Monday urged the judge to leave her order in place, citing the potential for the highly public probe to damage him as the FBI and DOJ appear to be selectively leaking information to the media.

Democrats have long signaled their intention to use Trump as a political bludgeon in the upcoming midterms and beyond. Biden has recently referred to the opposition party’s Trump supporters as “semi-fascist” and has regularly insinutated that “ultra-MAGA” Republicans constituted a terrorist threat to American democracy.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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