Police presence outside Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on August 8, 2022, in Palm Beach, Florida.
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
Rep. Adam Schiff told CNN unsealing the Mar-a-Lago search affidavit could benefit Trump’s defense.
The information could give “Trump lawyers a road map into how to intimidate witnesses,” Schiff said.
An ex-DOJ official told CBS keeping the details sealed protects the integrity of the investigation.
Amid calls for the Department of Justice to unseal the affidavit that laid out the rationale to search Mar-a-Lago earlier this month, some officials have cautioned that revealing too much information about the ongoing legal proceedings could damage the investigation and benefit former President Donald Trump’s defense.
In a Sunday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Rep. Adam Schiff said there is significant “public interest” in a copy of the affidavit being released, but that an unredacted version could put sources of information “at risk” for retaliation by the former president.
“I think the Justice Department makes a powerful case that, at the early stage of the investigation, when it could jeopardize the pursuit of justice, this is not the time to be giving essentially the Trump lawyers a road map into how to intimidate witnesses or how to derail a legitimate investigation,” Schiff said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
He added: “We have seen the president retaliate against anyone he considers a whistle-blower, accuse them of treason.”
Trump himself has been pushing for the release of the affidavit, The Washington Post reported, potentially believing it would energize his supporters and give him more ammunition to attack the Justice Department.
The Justice Department has opposed the unsealing, saying the investigation “implicates highly classified material” and its release would “likely chill future cooperation by witnesses.”
Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart last Thursday indicated he is not inclined to keep the full affidavit sealed, though he has not made a final determination about what information should be released.
Reinhart instructed the DOJ to submit proposed redactions for the affidavit by Thursday, after which he will make a final determination regarding what content will be released.
David Laufman, an ex-DOJ official who investigated Hillary Clinton’s emails, also said there could be consequences to releasing the affidavit, which Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have demanded the Department of Justice hand over. Laufman also agreed with the DOJ’s stance that keeping the documents sealed, at least for now, protects the integrity of the ongoing investigation.
“There are sometimes classic collisions between two coordinate branches of government,” Laufman told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “It does seem to be premature for Congress to be sticking its nose into an ongoing criminal investigation. That’s what this is. Just because it implicates classified information to me, doesn’t seem to give a platform for the House Intelligence Committee to intrude at this time.”