• Mon. Mar 6th, 2023

Donald Trump says FBI seized his passports in Mar-a-Lago raid, DOJ opposes affidavit release

Former US president Donald Trump has said that FBI agents “stole” his passports last week when they raided his residence at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida – his latest explosive allegation against federal law enforcement.

“Wow! In the raid by the FBI of Mar-a-Lago, they stole my three Passports (one expired), along with everything else,” Mr Trump wrote in a post on his Truth Social network on Monday, New York Post reports.

“This is an assault on a political opponent at a level never seen before in our Country. Third World!”

It came as the Department of Justice (DOJ) said it would oppose the release of the underlying affidavit used to justify the raid as it would be “likely to compromise” its investigation.

“If disclosed, the affidavit would serve as a road map 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,” federal prosecutors said in a court filing.

The DOJ added that the release of even a redacted version of the affidavit “would not serve any public interest” due to the number of details that would have to be omitted.

Prosecutors added that they would be willing to make other documents connected to the search public, including cover sheets for the initial search warrant application, the government’s motion to seal the warrant and the sealing order issued by US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.

“The fact that this investigation implicates highly classified materials further underscores the need to protect the integrity of the investigation,” the DOJ said in its Monday filing.

The conservative transparency group Judicial Watch and nearly a dozen news outlets are seeking the release of documents related to the search.

And on Friday, Mr Trump said that he wants all documents pertaining to the raid to be released.

“Not only will I not oppose the release of documents related to the unAmerican, unwarranted, and unnecessary raid and break-in of my home in Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago, I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents, even though they have been drawn up by radical left Democrats and possible future political opponents, who have a strong and powerful vested interest in attacking me, much as they have done for the last six years,” he wrote on Truth Social.

FBI agents searched the former president’s residence at his Mar-a-Lago club on August 8 in connection to records that were removed from the White House when Mr Trump left office in January 2021.

Documents unsealed on Friday said the DOJ is investigating whether Mr Trump broke three laws pertaining to official records, including the Espionage Act of 1917 – a law used in recent years to justify harsh sanctions, including against whistleblowers.

Typically, the seizure of a person’s passports indicates that authorities believe them to be a flight risk, or that they could face criminal charges preventing them from travelling outside the US.

An inventory of property that was taken from the resort made no mention of passports, though it did note that agents seized 27 boxes – some of which reportedly contained classified documents – two binders of photographs, and a handwritten note, among other items.

Mr Trump and his allies slammed the FBI and said the raid is the latest phase of a long-running “witch hunt” that dates back to the bureau’s investigation into whether he colluded with Russia’s government during the 2016 campaign.

Attorney-General Merrick Garland, whose 2016 Supreme Court nomination was nixed by Trump after his upset election win, said last week that he personally signed off on pursuing the search.

Mr Garland and FBI director Christopher Wray otherwise have said little publicly to defend the raid.

It’s unclear what exactly prompted the unusual FBI operation, which reportedly followed months of talks between Mr Trump’s representatives and the government about the whereabouts and possible return of certain records.

A Washington Post report suggested that the raid may have been spurred by concern about nuclear-related documents, but Mr Trump denied this on Friday, saying in a statement, “Nuclear weapons is a hoax, just like Russia, Russia, Russia was a hoax.”

Mr Trump has also claimed that the documents in question had already been declassified and that the FBI search was unnecessary.

“They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago,” he wrote on Truth Social. “It was in secured storage, with an additional lock put on as per their request. They could have had it anytime they wanted – and that includes LONG ago. ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS ASK.”

The Russia probe failed to find evidence that Mr Trump worked with the Kremlin to win the 2016 election.

The investigation was marred by FBI misconduct, including the falsification of court documents by FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith and revelations that FBI employees leading the probe – including Peter Stzrok, who opened the investigation – trashed Mr Trump in private messages.

In addition to reviewing Mr Trump’s handling of documents, the DOJ is investigating the ex-president’s actions to challenge his 2020 election loss, including by floating the selection of rival slates of electors from swing states.

This article originally appeared on New York Post and was reproduced with permission

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