Despite feverish out-of-court statements, attorneys for former President Donald Trump have so far kept quiet where it counts as a judge in Florida on Thursday considered releasing a redacted version of the probable cause affidavit used to support the early August search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago.
“[I]n the interest of TRANSPARENCY, I call for the immediate release of the completely unredacted affidavit pertaining to this horrible and shocking BREAK-IN,” the 45th president himself reportedly wrote in a representative Truth Social post on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022.
But as U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart heard arguments about unsealing the document containing the legal arguments made by the government for the FBI’s raid on Trump’s Florida home, the ex-president’s legal team reportedly just sat in the room and watched.
“Trump lawyer Christina Bobb just showed up to court here in Florida,” ABC News reporter Katherine Faulders tweeted just before the hearing began. “She said she’s here to watch and no one from the Trump legal team is arguing or filing anything.”
Bobb previously decline to directly answer a question from Fox News host Laura Ingraham as to whether Trump’s team would be filing their own motion to unseal the affidavit in full, saying the former president had been clear about his preferences and that he supported the legal efforts already underway by legal transparency group Judicial Watch.
“I don’t have an exact answer,” she said. “We’re watching the situation to see how it develops and we’ll respond in a way that we think is best for the American people.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has argued against releasing even a redacted version of the affidavit, saying its release could frustrate their ongoing criminal investigation and have adverse impacts on extant and potential witnesses. Those arguments were repeated by DOJ Counterintelligence Chief Jay Bratt in court on Thursday.
In a bird’s-eye-view report on the day’s proceedings, The Washington Post‘s Josh Dawsey confirmed that Bobb kept mum during the hearing – even as multiple media outlets and pro-transparency groups argued for the “historic” and “significant” document to be released.
From that report:
His lawyers, however, have not submitted any formal motion to the court declaring such a stance. Trump lawyer Christina Bobb appeared at the courthouse Thursday, saying she was in attendance to monitor the proceedings.
Another Trump attorney, Alina Habba, recently provoked sharp debate for telling a Newsmax host she and her client would prefer the government to “uncover everything” related to the unprecedented search which allegedly turned up numerous classified documents.
Law&Crime asked Habba if Trump planned to file a formal motion or otherwise legally join the effort to unseal the affidavit in full, but a response was not forthcoming at the time of publication.
Lawyers expressed no surprise at Trump’s team declining to make a formal request for the document to be released in either motions or arguments before the West Palm Beach court.
“The only people who have not asked to have anything unsealed in the proper way are the attorneys for the person screaming into every microphone that everything should be unsealed,” national security and privacy law attorney Kel McClanahan told Law&Crime.”That tells you everything you need to know. He does not want to have the affidavit unsealed. He wants to have it look like he wants it unsealed so that he can scream conspiracy.”
The public interest attorney went on to say that Attorney General Merrick Garland “already called [Trump’s] bluff once” when DOJ agreed to release the search warrant absent any objections from the former president.
“He didn’t object for obvious reasons,” McClanahan said, regarding the search warrant.
“Now he’s screaming for the affidavit to be unsealed because he knows the government won’t release it,” the attorney continued. “He’s not asking for it to be unsealed, because he might win, and that would be the worst for him.”
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti also took note of the disconnect:
If Trump really wanted the affidavit public, his team would be urging the court to make it public.
Instead they’re saying nothing in court while loudly proclaiming in right-wing media that the affidavit should be disclosed. https://t.co/3mXoikpeNi
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) August 18, 2022
As the hearing drew to a close on Thursday, Reinhart indicated his willingness to unseal the affidavit with substantial redactions included for the safety and preservation of witnesses:
DOJ says releasing affidavit could chill witnesses, expose grand jury material and reveal specific investigative techniques. Even media & Judicial Watch said they understand some material may need to remain sealed. But wants judge to decide line by line. Judge agreed with that. https://t.co/of4nTzjv3c
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) August 18, 2022
“I think that the affidavit will be partially unsealed, a redacted copy will be released, and what they will do is redact all the information that will expose any confidential informants or unacknowledged sources,” McClanahan predicted well before the hearing was over in a phone call. “Bottom line: I think they’ll play the same way they did before and agree to unseal what Trump already knows.”
[image via STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images]
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