By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The media filed a new bid on Wednesday to unseal even more court records related to the FBI’s unprecedented probe of former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, asking a federal judge to release more details about the records seized.
The media request came hours after the Justice Department filed a 54-page document late Tuesday afternoon that describes publicly for the first time evidence it has received that Trump may have tried to obstruct its investigation by deliberately trying to withhold documents.
In the media request, the news outlet asked U.S. District Judge Ellen Cannon to release two other records that the Justice Department also separately filed under seal earlier Tuesday.
One is a more detailed record of the property seized by the FBI from the Mar-a-lago estate, which included 33 items and boxes containing more than 100 classified files.
The other file sought is a document that would have more details on the status of the department’s “filter” review, in which agents not involved in the investigation sift through documents to separate anything possibly covered by attorney-client privilege.
“The court records identified here are central to furthering the public’s understanding of what happened at Mar-a-Lago on August 8, 2022, and this unusual civil proceeding, and will also shed more light on the government’s actions in executing investigation.” wrote the stores in their motion.
Media organizations included ABC, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, CNN, CBS, Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co, NBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
In a public Justice Department filing late Tuesday, prosecutors said the custodian of Trump’s records, whom they did not name, falsely certified that all government records had been returned when FBI agents and a top Justice Department official visited Mar-a – pit in June to recover the materials.
On that visit, Trump’s lawyer also barred government investigators from opening or looking inside some of the boxes Trump kept inside one of his warehouses, they said.
The department ultimately decided to seek court approval for a search warrant after the FBI developed evidence of possible obstruction.
“The government developed evidence that a search limited to the warehouse would not have uncovered all the classified documents at the facility,” prosecutors said.
“The government also developed evidence that government records were likely hidden and removed from storage and that efforts were likely made to obstruct the government’s investigation.”
Media seeking additional material have had success in the past. Last week, they convinced the judge who approved the warrant to unseal portions of the Justice Department affidavit that contained evidence that the FBI had probable cause to search Trump’s home.
The Justice Department will face Trump’s legal team at a hearing before Judge Cannon on Thursday, where Trump’s team will ask her to appoint a special master to conduct a privileged review of the seized materials. The Ministry of Justice opposes the request.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)