Lawyers for several media outlets, including The Washington Post, argued that the affidavit should be made public because of the “historic significance” of the Justice Department’s investigation.
“Transparency helps the public to understand and accept decisions. It’s good for the government and the court,” media lawyer Charles Tobin told the court Thursday. “You can’t believe what you can’t see.”
Trump has denounced the investigation as politically motivated, saying on social media this week that he believes the document should be sealed without redaction “in the interest of transparency.”
However, his lawyers have not submitted a formal petition to the court declaring such a position. Trump attorney Christina Popp appeared in court Thursday and said she was present to monitor the case.
Jay Pratt, head of the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Division, is arguing the government’s case against lawyers representing the news media. Pratt has been closely involved in the investigation, having visited Mar-a-Lago in June to inspect Trump’s stockpiles. The Counterintelligence and Expert Control Unit leads investigations into leaks of government secrets.
Pratt said the release of the affidavit would affect the well-being of witnesses named in the document and could have a chilling effect on others “who may come forward and cooperate with the government’s investigation.”
“The government is very concerned about witness protection,” Pratt said.
Former Justice Department officials closely following the case say the affidavit is unlikely to contain “good” information for the former president, and as The Post reported earlier this week, Trump’s advisers have not reached a consensus on whether it should be released. Great interest.
Law enforcement officers submit such documents to a judge as part of an application for a search warrant. Affidavits usually contain information about why the authorities believe there is evidence at a particular property and other details about their investigation.
It has become the latest flashpoint in an ongoing criminal investigation by federal officials stemming from Trump’s dispute with the National Archives over materials taken from the White House when his term ended last year.
Last weekend, federal magistrate judge Bruce E. Reinhardt — with the Justice Department’s approval — removed the seal. Search warrant and inventory Including detailed descriptions of classified items, federal agents say they were recovered from the former president’s club and residence in South Florida, Mar-a-Lago.
Legal experts said the Justice Department’s refusal to release the document was consistent with how the agency typically conducts investigations, and that it was highly unusual for a judge to release the documents in full in the middle of an ongoing investigation.
Those who have spoken with Trump in recent days say the former president believes any information made public about the investigation into his handling of classified matters will appeal to his supporters and ultimately benefit him politically.
But others in Trump’s orbit fear such a move could backfire because they don’t know exactly what’s involved.