Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee and member of the Jan. 6 Select Committee, on Sunday outlined what information the public can learn from the release of a redacted affidavit that led to the FBI’s search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort earlier this month.
A federal judge previously ordered the Justice Department to unseal parts of the Mar-a-Lago affidavit. Prosecutors have until Thursday to provide proposed redactions to the affidavit. The DOJ previously argued that the release of the affidavit could potentially endanger witnesses and imperil the DOJ’s investigation.
Appearing on CNN, Schiff, a former prosecutor, explained the type of information the public could learn from the affidavit.
“You could learn what witnesses may have seen in terms of the handling of those documents or people coming and going from where the documents were located,” Schiff said. “You could learn about whether representations were made that proved to be false, in terms of whether they had given up the classified information.”
Schiff said the fact that the public can learn a “great deal” from the affidavit is “just the problem” for the DOJ, who he says shares “very legitimate” concerns.
“That is that, if this affidavit is revealed, it will put those sources of information at risk,” Schiff said. “We have seen the president (Trump) retaliate against anyone he considers a whistle-blower, accuse them of treason.”
Schiff then pointed Trump’s “incendiary rhetoric” that led to an attempted break in to the FBI’s field office in Cincinnati earlier this month, following the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, when reiterating that the risks the DOJ identifies in the release of the affidavit are “real.”
Schiff acknowledged the public interest in the affidavit is “also real,” and pointed out that questions remain on the timing of its release.
“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 Thursday, Judge Reinhart ordered the government to propose reductions to the affidavit, and signaled that he was inclined to unseal portions of it. Reinhart, who has faced an onslaught of threats and harassment from Trump supporters since signing off on the search warrant, reportedly acknowledged that the redaction process could be lengthy and sometimes turns documents into “meaningless gibberish.” Reinhart also declined to say whether potential portions released from the document would be “meaningful for the public or the media.”
Last week, the government signaled that the release of the affidavit with redactions makes it less likely that much will be revealed about the investigation that led to the seizure of classified records that Trump took to Mar-a-Lago. In a filing last week, the government argued that “the redactions necessary to mitigate harms to the integrity of the investigation would be so extensive as to render the remaining unsealed text devoid of meaningful content.”
Although Trump himself griped on social media that the DOJ needed to release as much information as possible, including the affidavit, the former president did not take a position in court on the release of the records.
The DOJ also mentioned in the filing that the affidavit provided a “roadmap” to the investigation, saying that revealing it in its entirety would likely endanger witnesses.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he “personally approved” the decision to seek a search warrant for government documents at Mar-a-Lago and moved to unseal the warrant, absent objections from Trump, but not the affidavit itself.
Watch Schiff’s remarks below: