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Friday, February 3, 2023

Prosecutors oppose releasing Trump search evidence

Date:

 The US Department of Justice says releasing details about the warrant used to raid former President Donald Trump’s Florida home last week could cause “irreparable damage” to its investigation.

The department does not want to disclose the details of the affidavit, the BBC reported.

FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago to find out if the Republican leader improperly handled government records when he left office. It was the first time in American history that a former president’s home was raided in a criminal probe.

Eleven sets of classified files were recovered from the search on August 8 at the estate in Palm Beach, according to the warrant, which was released on Friday.

Several news organisations have applied to have the court document showing the evidence needed to obtain the warrant, unsealed.

But prosecutors on Monday said that such a move would “cause significant and irreparable damage to this ongoing criminal investigation”.

“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,” they wrote in a court filing.

They also said the affidavit must stay sealed because the inquiry involves “highly classified materials”.

On Monday, Trump said the FBI took three of his passports during the raid, a step that would ordinarily only be taken if investigators deemed a suspect a flight risk.

“This is an assault on a political opponent at a level never seen before in our Country. Third World!” Trump posted on his social media platform, Truth Social.

The BBC said the justice department did not respond to its request for comment.

The FBI search has triggered an angry backlash from Trump allies, with many demanding the affidavit be publicly unveiled.

Republicans Senator Mike Rounds and Congressman Jim Jordan told television channels on Sunday that the justice department must prove it “was not just a fishing expedition”, and that 14 FBI agents requested for “blowing the whistle on purported politicisation” at the department, respectively.

Search warrants typically must be signed off by a judge, once prosecutors have demonstrated they have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.

The warrant used in the Trump raid was made public on Friday — a highly unusual move during a criminal investigation, which Attorney General Merrick Garland said was down to “substantial public interest”.

In Monday’s court filing, prosecutors cited threats against the FBI as another reason to keep the affidavit from public view.

“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 co-operate with the investigation,” said the court filing.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a memo on Friday night to law enforcement around the country noting an “increase in violent threats posted on social media against federal officials”, the BBC added.

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