DOJ objects to unsealing Mar-a-Lago search warrant affidavit

Politics

(NewsNation) — The Department of Justice on Monday objected to the release of an affidavit that could contain additional information about the search warrant executed at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property.

“There remain compelling reasons, including to protect the integrity of an ongoing law enforcement investigation that implicates national security, that support keeping the affidavit sealed,” department officials wrote in their court filing.

If the affidavit were to be released, the Department of Justice asked that it include significant redactions that would “render the remaining unsealed text devoid of meaningful content.”

Trump, in a Monday night post on his social media platform Truth Social, urged the release of the unredacted affidavit. He also said in an interview with Fox News Digital that he would do “whatever he can” to help tamp down rhetoric surrounding the search.

The court filing from Juan Antonio Gonzalez, the U.S. attorney in Miami, and Jay Bratt, a Justice Department national security official, argues that making the affidavit public would “cause significant and irreparable damage to this ongoing criminal investigation.” Prosecutors say the document includes “highly sensitive information about witnesses.”

The FBI searched the former president’s Palm Beach estate on Aug. 8.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asked to unseal the federal warrant used, citing “substantial public interest in this matter.”

The warrant and its property receipt were released Friday. At least 12 boxes were reportedly recovered in the FBI’s search.

The warrant didn’t provide great detail about what was found among the documents other than to say they included “top secret,” “secret” and “classified” materials.

The warrant cited possible crimes the FBI believed Trump may have committed, including possible violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of an investigation and destruction or removal of records.

Trump has claimed all the documents found at Mar-a-Lago were declassified, and therefore, allowed to be in his possession. 

Jamil Jaffer, former associate White House Counsel, discussed the affidavit while appearing on “Dan Abrams Live.”

Abrams asked if a president is required to follow any kind of process to declassify documents.

Jaffer replied: “It’s a complicated question, but I think the basic answer is no, not as a formal rule matter. The general classification and declassification of documents is governed by an executive order that’s been updated by various presidents, including President Obama. It provides that the president has original classification authority.”

Jaffer said it’s possible former President Trump could have declassified the documents, but that he would have to provide representation that he did that other than just words.

The former president also claimed that the FBI took hold of privileged attorney-client communication when they seized several boxes of documents from his Mar-a-Lago property.

Trump later took to his social media platform, Truth Social, to demand the material back.

The search warrant and receipt released Friday show that agents found 11 sets of confidential, secret, or top secret material at Mar-a-Lago.

What are the presidential record-keeping laws?

Two laws govern records created by the U.S. Government: The Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act.

The National Archives and Records Administration provided NewsNation the following statement Monday:

Presidential and Vice Presidential records and artifacts from the outgoing administration transfer into the legal custody of the National Archives at the end of the President’s term of office. The incumbent President and Vice President maintain legal custody over the records and artifacts during their terms. NARA works with the outgoing Presidential Administration to coordinate the physical transfer of Presidential Records Act (PRA) records from the White House to NARA.

National Archives and Records Administration

The National Archives takes legal custody of the administration’s records immediately after the outgoing president leaves office. The archiving process, however, takes time, meaning the NARA must receive White House approval to start moving records before the term ends.

That approval can be harder to secure for single-term presidents who lost their re-election, according to NARA’s website.

During the transfer, the records are stored in a temporary library and inventoried so they can be quickly located should the outgoing president need them before the term ends.

The records are eventually housed in a presidential library maintained by the NARA, which preserves, reviews, arranges and describes the records.

Although only a small percentage of federal agency records are permanent, all presidential records are permanent unless the archivist allows for their disposal. Examples of records that might not be preserved include public mail or routine administrative files, according to the National Archives website.

Examples of records that would be maintained include classified National Security Council files and documentation of domestic issues, among other items.

This is a developing story. Refresh for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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