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What's next after Mar-a-Lago search affidavit release? Case Western Reserve University law professor explains

"The Department of Justice has to decide if they going to prosecute a former president. And there’s a lot of debate."

CLEVELAND — On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department released a redacted version of the affidavit filed to get a search warrant for the Mar-a-Lago estate of former president Donald Trump.

So far, the government has recovered hundreds of documents with classified markings from Trump since he left the White House. Some were handed over willingly, others seized during an FBI search earlier this month. 

But on Friday, we got a glimpse at the affidavit that led to the search warrant. It was an early look at a document we normally wouldn't have access too this soon, according to CWRU law professor and former assistant federal prosecutor Kevin McMunigal. 

"It’s not until the person is indicted usually," McMunigal explains. "And that is typically not released because it has all sorts of stuff in it that would compromise the investigation. It could be witness names, it could be all sorts of things. Who knows?"

In many ways, this is a case of firsts -- A judge allowing the release of a heavily redacted version of the affidavit written by a federal agent. Aside from what we can see, there's also plenty more the DOJ likely knows that's not included in the affidavit. 

"They just have to put enough in there to show there probably was a crime and there’s enough evidence in that place," adds McMunigal.

Indeed, FBI investigators did find more sensitive documents during their search, including sets of materials marked classified. Many law experts believe it's enough to bring charges. 

"Having seized the documents, it’s a pretty open and shut case. And I think a lot of other people think the same thing," McMunigal says.

The question is, will charges actually come? 

"The Department of Justice has to decide if they going to prosecute a former president. And there’s a lot of debate both about whether that should happen and whether it will happen," McMunigal says.

The key here is prosecutorial discretion. There's no precedent that says the president has to be charged. It's possible this investigation was simply to recover documents that were taken. 

The investigation is ongoing. 

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