(WEST PALM BEACH) — A federal magistrate judge in West Palm Beach says he’s inclined to unseal parts of the affidavit used to raid former President Trump’s Palm Beach home.
The magistrate is giving the Justice Department until next Thursday to submit a redacted version of its affidavit laying out justification for last week’s search of Mar-a-Lago for classified documents.
Former President Trump, Republicans and attorneys for media companies are calling for the affidavit’s complete unsealing.
The government argued unsealing could compromise witnesses and have national security implications. A Trump spokesman tweeted that no redactions should be necessary.
There are reported discussions happening about whether or not to release surveillance video of the F-B-I raid when eleven sets of classified documents were removed, including some that were reportedly labeled top secret. Trump has been turning the legal attacks into millions of dollars a day from donors.
The Justice Department earlier this week urged the judge, Bruce Reinhart, to keep the affidavit under seal, arguing that if it were to be made public it could “cause significant and irreparable damage” to an ongoing criminal investigation involving highly classified materials related to national security.
“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,” officials said in a Monday filing, noting that the affidavit contained “highly sensitive information about witnesses” already interviewed by the government.
“In addition, information about witnesses is particularly sensitive given the high-profile nature of this matter and the risk that the revelation of witness identities would impact their willingness to cooperate with the investigation,” the DOJ’s filing said. “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 redacted copy of the search warrant released last Friday sent shockwaves through Washington, as it revealed the Justice Department was investigating the potential violation of at least three separate criminal statutes in its search of Mar a Lago, including obstruction of justice and one crime under the Espionage Act.
A property receipt accompanying the warrant shows agents seized 11 boxes of documents of various classifications, including one set referring to “classified/TS/SCI documents” (the acronym stands for top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information that not everyone with even top-secret clearance can view) and four other sets of top-secret documents.
The documents were discovered by authorities after a lawyer for Trump signed a statement in June to the FBI affirming that all classified documents on the premises had been handed over to investigators, sources confirmed to ABC News.
Trump in recent days has called for the “immediate release” of the affidavit while leveling various attacks at the FBI and Justice Department, while also demanding over his social media website that the documents be returned to him. But Trump’s legal team has yet to take any sort of legal action on either front in response to the search.
Former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone and former deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin are among multiple other witnesses interviewed by the FBI as part of its investigation, ABC News confirmed Tuesday, with sources saying both sat with investigators sometime in the spring. But there’s no indication that the Justice Department’s filing referencing officials’ hopes of protecting witnesses who testified in the investigation was a direct reference to Cipollone or Philbin.
ABC News’ John Santucci contributed to this report.
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