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The US Justice Department denied demands on Monday to unseal the affidavit used to justify the FBI’s search of Donald Trump’s Florida home last week.
Several US media sites and Republican members of Congress have urged a Florida judge to reveal the affidavit underpinning the raid, which sparked a political tempest in an already highly divided country.
The Justice Department highlighted in a petition with a US District Court that the search warrant and a receipt for goods confiscated from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home during last week’s raid had already been made public.
However, it claimed that the affidavit, which lays forth the FBI’s case for why the search warrant should be issued, presented a “completely different set of concerns.”
“There are still compelling reasons to keep the affidavit secret, including to safeguard the integrity of an ongoing law enforcement investigation that involves national security,” the department said.
It stated that the government has “a compelling, overriding interest in safeguarding the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation.”
It went on to say that the affidavit contained “critically essential and detailed investigative facts” as well as “extremely sensitive information about witnesses, including witnesses examined by the government.”
The Justice Department stated that if the court orders the release of the affidavit, the needed redactions would “be so extensive as to leave the remaining unsealed text devoid of significant content.”
Among the materials taken during the extraordinary search of a former president’s house were documents labelled “Top Secret,” “Secret,” and “Confidential.”
Trump, who is considering another presidential run in 2024, strongly condemned the FBI raid and claimed that all of the material seized during the search had previously been “declassified.”
The warrant to search Trump’s home, personally approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland, directed the FBI to seize records “illegally possessed” in violation of three criminal statutes, including one under the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to obtain or retain national security information illegally.
On Monday, Trump claimed that FBI agents had confiscated his passports during the operation.
In addition to the investigations into his financial dealings, Trump is being investigated for his efforts to alter the results of the November 2020 election, as well as his followers’ January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
After the Capitol riot, Trump was impeached for a historic second time by the House – he was charged with instigating an insurgency – but was acquitted by the Senate.