DOJ opposes news media request to unseal Trump search affidavit, calls it 'roadmap' to criminal investigation
News organizations argue unsealing the document is in the public interest.
The Justice Department said in a new court filing Monday that it opposes an effort by multiple media organizations, including ABC News, to unseal the supporting affidavit behind the now-public search warrant for former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate.
"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," the filing states.
In a footnote, department officials write that they "carefully considered" whether they could release the affidavit with redactions, but the redactions necessary to "mitigate harms to the integrity of the investigation would be so extensive as to render the remaining unsealed text devoid of meaningful content, and the release of such a redacted version would not serve any public interest."
However, if the magistrate judge were to order the partial unsealing of the affidavit, "the government respectfully requests an opportunity to provide the Court with proposed redactions."
The department also says that it does not object to the unsealing of other materials filed in connection with the search warrant, "whose unsealing would not jeopardize the integrity of this national security investigation," but with minor redactions to protect government personnel. This would consist of "cover sheets associated with the search warrant application, the government's motion to seal, and the Court's sealing order.
The government has filed those under seal and is asking the court to unseal them.
Further explaining their request to keep the underlying affidavit sealed, prosecutors note it "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 briefly detail some of the information in the affidavit that has been reviewed by Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, noting that, "it contains, among other critically important and detailed investigative facts: highly sensitive information about witnesses, including witnesses interviewed by the government; specific investigative techniques; and information required by law to be kept under seal" under grand jury rules.
"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," prosecutors note -- highlighting stories regarding an increase in threats to law enforcement that has followed the search of Mar-a-Lago.
"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 filing states. "The fact that this investigation implicates highly classified materials further underscores the need to protect the integrity of the investigation and exacerbates the potential for harm if information is disclosed to the public prematurely or improperly."
The unsealing could also impact the civil liberties of those whose actions are detailed in the underlying affidavit, prosecutors said.