A document unsealed Thursday, which offered specifics about the crimes the Justice Department is investigating, including “willful retention of national defense information,” sharpens the focus on former President Donald Trump as a possible subject of the criminal probe, several legal experts told CNN.
US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart on Thursday released several procedural court documents related to the FBI’s search of Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. The newly unsealed document was part of the application for the warrant and was among several largely procedural documents the judge unsealed Thursday.
Previously, the search warrant documents only listed the federal statutes, including the broad law known as the Espionage Act. And the documents released so far have made clear that Trump and others around him face potential legal exposure, including for possible obstruction of justice.
But the specific language on “willful retention” could point to the role of the former President, who would have been authorized to possess national defense documents while in office but not once he decamped to his private club and residence in Palm Beach, Florida.
In the filings, prosecutors also argued that they needed to keep secret their search warrant paperwork before the search last Monday, “because the integrity of the ongoing investigation might be compromised, and evidence might be destroyed.”
The filings include the Department of Justice’s motion to seal the warrant documents, the order granting that sealing request and the criminal cover sheet.
The cover sheet also specifies that the Justice Department applied to search Mar-a-Lago believing they could find both evidence of these crimes and get back illegally possessed items.
Also Thursday, Reinhart set in motion the possible public release of a heavily redacted version of the affidavit for the search at Mar-a-Lago.
The judge plans to hear more from the Justice Department by next week about how extensively investigators want to keep confidential the document that describes their investigative steps and methods leading to the need for the search.
Reinhart said he wasn’t convinced yet that the entire affidavit should remain undisclosed to the public.
“I’m not prepared to find that the affidavit should be fully sealed” based on the record he has now, Reinhart said, adding that there are “portions” that could be unsealed.
Prosecutors will have the opportunity to propose redactions and explain why each piece of information needs to be kept from the public eye, Reinhart said. Those proposals will be due on August 25.