The US Department of Justice asked a judge not to release the affidavit that gave the FBI a probable reason to seek that of Donald Trump resort town of Mar-a-Lago, growing mistrust among top aides seeking insight into the intensifying criminal investigation around the former president.
The affidavit should not be unsealed because it could reveal the scope of the investigation into Trump’s unauthorized withholding of government secrets, the Justice Department argued, days after Mar-a’s search warrant -Lago showed that he was referring to potential violations of three criminal laws.
A week ago, FBI agents seized around 20 boxes of material – including documents marked Top Secret – executing a search warrant which referred to the Espionage Act prohibiting the unauthorized retention of national security information that could harm the United States or aid an adversary.
“The affidavit would serve as a road map for the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course,” the Justice Department said, adding it had no objection to unsealing. both a cover page and a sealing order that wouldn’t hurt. the criminal investigation.
In arguing against unsealing the affidavit, the Justice Department also said the disclosure could harm its ability to obtain the cooperation of witnesses not only in the Mar-a-Lago investigation, but also others who would seem to relate to the former president.
“Disclosure of the government affidavit at this stage would also likely impede future cooperation of witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses, as well as in other high-profile investigations,” prosecutors added.
The existence of potential witnesses who could still be cooperating with a number of investigations against Trump — apparently people with intimate knowledge of the former president’s activities — rattled his close advisers once again on Monday, digging even deeper. mistrust within his inner political circle.
The lack of understanding of what the Justice Department intends to do with the investigation into Trump’s unauthorized withholding of government documents has deeply frustrated Trump’s legal team and aides in a week of perilous times. for the former president.
At least one lawyer on Trump’s legal team – led by former Assistant US Attorney Evan Corcoran, who also acted as a lawyer for former Trump strategist Steve Bannon – called a reporter covering the story for any insight into how the Department of Justice might proceed next.
It added to the already tense atmosphere among the small group of advisers who have day-to-day roles around Trump that erupted shortly after the FBI left Mar-a-Lago and raised suspicions that someone close to the former president had become an informant for the FBI.
This speculation came in part amid expanding knowledge of how the FBI could have established probable cause that a crime had been committed at Mar-a-Lago using new or recent information – to avoid that probable cause becomes “stale” – through a confidential file. informant.
According to multiple sources close to Trump, suspicion initially centered on Nicholas Luna, the longtime Trump man who stepped down around March, and Molly Michael, the former chief of operations in the Oval Office of the Trump’s White House, who remains on the payroll but is due to leave soon.
Luna was subpoenaed by the congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, but has not spoken to the FBI about the matter, one of the sources said. And while Michael is also expected to leave Trump’s orbit, the source said, his departure — like Luna’s — is not acrimonious.
Mid-week, attention shifted to Mar-a-Lago employees and other staff at the members-only resort in Palm Beach, Florida, the sources said, apparently in part because the FBI knew exactly which rooms and where in the rooms. they needed to search.
But around the weekend, and following the revelation that the FBI had removed a leather box from the property and already knew the location of Trump’s safe, scrutiny again turned to anyone else. who had not yet been suspected – including members of Trump’s family, the sources said.
A spokesperson for the former president did not respond to a request for comment. Calls to Trump’s lawyers went unanswered or straight to voicemail. The Justice Department declined to comment on Monday’s investigation or request.
Nonetheless, growing mistrust and rampant speculation about an informant began to reach dizzying levels, even by the standards of the Trump presidency, which in many ways was characterized by competing interests and political backstabbing, officials said. sources.
It remains unclear whether the FBI relied on confidential informants, and the Guardian first reported that the search took place in part because the Justice Department was concerned that classified documents remained. at Mar-a-Lago following interactions with Trump’s attorneys.
At least one Trump lawyer has signed a document – apparently incorrectly – attesting to the Justice Department that there were no classified documents remaining at Mar-a-Lago after federal authorities in June removed 10 boxes of government documents, the sources said, confirming a New York Times report.