Judge agrees to unseal redacted DOJ affidavit for Mar-a-Lago search
Miami, Aug 25 (EFE).- A federal judge agreed on Thursday to unseal a redacted version of affidavit justifying the Aug. 8 FBI raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago retirement home and exclusive club in Palm Beach.
In the version of the document submitted to the court earlier in the day, the DOJ removed information it considers to be sensitive, given that it is pursuing an ongoing investigation into Trump and his activities and does not want to provide a roadmap to the ex-president’s legal team about where the investigation is headed.
On Thursday afternoon, The Washington Post – which was among the media outlets requesting release of the document – reported that Reinhart scheduled publication of the redacted affidavit for midday on Friday.
ABC News – another media outlet requesting the document’s release – reported that federal Judge Bruce Reinhart said after reviewing the DOJ memo and the proposed redactions that he believes the government has shown a convincing reason for keeping parts of the affidavit under seal, but he will unseal other portions of the document.
“I have reviewed the Government’s memorandum of law and proposed redactions to the search warrant Affidavit,” Reinhart wrote Thursday afternoon in his order to unseal the redacted affidavit. “I am fully advised in the entire record, including the contents of the Affidavit.”
He said that he agreed to keep sealed portions of the affidavit that could reveal the identities of witnesses, law enforcement personnel and uncharged parties; the strategy, direction and scope of the department’s investigation into Trump’s handling of government documents; sources and methods; or grand jury information.
It is not yet clear whether the DOJ will appeal the judge’s decision.
In submitting the document on Thursday, the government thus complied with the deadline set by Reinhart for submitting a redacted version of the affidavit, and he then examined it as part of a motion by major US media outlets calling for the affidavit’s release.
“The United States has filed a submission under seal per the Court’s order,” said DOJ spokesman Anthony Coley, although he declined to comment further while Reinhart “considers the matter.”
The order to conduct the raid on Mar-a-Lago to recover national security documents that Trump had allegedly illegally taken from the White House when he left office in January 2021 had been previously released and said that probable cause existed that Trump and his staffers had committed the crimes of obstruction of justice, destruction of documents and violating the Espionage Act by removing the documents.
Trump had taken more than 300 classified documents, according to The New York Times, from the White House to his South Florida residence at Mar-a-Lago.
The media outlets called for the release of the affidavit, even if only in partial form.
“I must still consider whether there is a less onerous alternative to sealing the entire document,” Reinhart had written Monday in his order. “I cannot say at this point that partial redactions will be so extensive that they will result in a meaningless disclosure, but I may ultimately reach that conclusion after hearing further from the Government.”
The FBI seized 26 boxes of government documents, including 11 sets of classified documents, amounting to hundreds of pages of material from Trump’s home, however prosecutors did not make public any details about what those documents contained, and media outlets are attempting to determine what the FBI was seeking from Trump and why.
However, Jay Bratt, a top DOJ National Security Division official, had told the judge that the document would need to be so thoroughly redacted that it would not “edify the public in any meaningful way.”
Meanwhile, Trump has filed another lawsuit demanding that an independent expert evaluate the raid, a more detailed list of the items seized by the FBI during the operation – which he calls “illegal” – and the return of anything that was taken by the FBI but not included on its list.
Reinhart has said he carefully reviewed the affidavit prior to signing the warrant authorizing the FBI to search and seize documents from Mar-a-Lago.
He has also emphasized that the facts contained in the affidavit were compelling and that he “was and is” satisfied with his decision to grant the FBI authority to stage the raid.