The judge “tended” to reveal some of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago affidavit

The revelation by a senior national security attorney was the clearest indication yet that the DOJ is taking a direct look at Trump’s behavior.

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s investigation into whether former President Donald Trump was illegally stored classified records at his Florida estate — and potentially violating the Espionage Act — is still “in the early stages,” a senior national security prosecutor said Thursday.

The revelation by Jay Bratt, a senior national security attorney, was the clearest indication yet that the Justice Department is taking a close look at Trump’s behavior and is moving forward with his criminal investigation after the FBI revealed classified and top secret information during a search in Mar-a information confiscated -Lago last week.

Details of the investigation were set out during a court hearing Thursday after several news organizations, including The Associated Press, asked a federal judge to release the affidavit in support of the warrant that allowed FBI agents to search Trump’s Florida home.

The government claims that releasing the information would jeopardize its investigation.

Unsealing the affidavit would provide a “roadmap” of the investigation — which is at an “early stage” — and uncover the next steps to be taken by federal agents and prosecutors, said Bratt, the agency’s head of counterintelligence and exports Department of Justice Tax Section.

He argued that it was in the public interest for the investigation, including the questioning of witnesses, to continue unhindered.

As the hearing began, a small caravan of vehicles with Trump flags drove past the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach, Florida. An attorney for Trump, Christina Bobb, was at the courthouse Thursday but said she was only there to observe the court proceedings.

The media outlets argue that the release of the affidavit would help the public determine whether the Justice Department had legitimate reasons for the search or whether it was part of a vendetta by the Biden administration against Trump, as the former president and his supporters claim. In a Truth Social post last week, Trump called for the unedited affidavit to be released in the interest of transparency.

“The matter is of the highest public interest and affects the actions of current and former government officials,” wrote attorney Carol Jean LoCiero, representing the Times and others. “President Trump condemned the search as an ‘assault that could only take place in third world countries,’ claimed agents ‘even broke into my safe,’ and otherwise questioned the validity of the search.”

U.S. Judge Bruce Reinhart — the judge who approved the warrant and presided over Thursday’s hearing — told the court he was “inclined” to not seal the entire affidavit and asked the Justice Department to produce a copy of the affidavit with proposed redacting information it wishes to keep secret.

After the government presented that proposed version by next Thursday, the judge said he would review it and possibly meet government lawyers and give them an opportunity to argue why certain information should be withheld.

Justice Department lawyers have argued in a court filing that the investigation into Trump’s handling of “highly classified material” is ongoing and that the document contains confidential information about witnesses.

A recently filed filing by Juan Antonio Gonzalez, the U.S. Attorney in Miami, and Bratt, a senior national security official at the Justice Department, says the release of the affidavit “would cause substantial and irreparable damage to this ongoing criminal investigation.”

“If the affidavit were to be released, it would serve as a roadmap for the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course in a way that would most likely jeopardize future investigative steps,” they wrote.

FBI agents searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on Aug. 8 and removed 11 sets of classified documents, some of which were marked not only top secret but also “sensitive information.” A receipt of what was taken was released on Friday. This is a special category designed to protect the nation’s most important secrets which, if publicly disclosed, could cause “extraordinarily serious” damage to US interests. The court filings did not detail any information the documents might contain. The judge “tended” to reveal some of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago affidavit

Laura Coffey

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