Federal judge says parts of affidavit used to obtain search warrant for former president donald trumpThe Mar-a-Lago vacation home may be unsealed, NBC News reported Thursday.
US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart’s decision came after the Justice Department asked him not to unseal the highly sensitive document, which details the government’s view that it had probable cause to believe the search of Mar -a-Lago would reveal evidence of illegality. .
The government’s investigation into records seized from Trump’s residence in Palm Beach, Florida, is still in its “early stages,” said Jay Bratt, head of a DOJ counterintelligence team, reported. NBC.
The affidavit contains “substantial grand jury information” in a case “with national security implications,” Bratt reportedly said during the hearing.
Reinhart disagreed, saying he thinks “there are parts that can be unsealed.”
An aerial view of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home after Trump said FBI agents raided it, in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. August 15, 2022.
Mark Bello | Reuters
In an order written later Thursday, Reinhart wrote: “As I ruled from the bench at the conclusion of the hearing, I conclude that on this case the government has failed in its obligation to show that the entire affidavit must remain sealed.”
The judge gave the government a week to file the proposed redactions to the affidavit.
Prosecutors had previously urged the court to reject calls from the media and other entities to release the affidavit, which supported the search warrant used by FBI agents during the Aug. 8 raid on Mar-a-Lago.
Trump has publicly requested that the affidavit be released without redaction, although his attorneys have yet to file a motion asking the judge to do so.
The former president “made it clear that the American people should be allowed to see the unredacted affidavit relating to the raid and burglary of his home,” his spokesperson Taylor Budowich said on Twitter after the hearing. His tweets praised Reinhart for rejecting “the DOJ’s cynical attempt to hide the entire affidavit from Americans,” but insisted that “no redactions should be necessary.”
The search warrant itself had been made public with DOJ approval last week. That document and attachments said officers were looking for documents related to three criminal statutes, one of which was part of the Espionage Act.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, who said he personally approved the warrant, backed its disclosure in light of “the substantial public interest in this matter.”
But the affidavit “presents a very different set of considerations,” federal prosecutors wrote in a court filing on Monday.
The still-sealed document contains “extremely important and detailed investigative facts” about witnesses and other “highly sensitive information” related to the ongoing criminal investigation, which “involves national security”, prosecutors wrote.
If leaked, the affidavit would be “highly likely to jeopardize future investigative steps,” said the filing, which was signed by Bratt, the head of the counterintelligence and export control section of the DOJ’s National Security Division.
The ongoing criminal investigation stems from an investigation into government records that were transferred to Mar-a-Lago instead of the National Archives after Trump left office in 2021.
FBI agents searched for all records and other evidence “unlawfully possessed” in violation of three criminal statutes, according to the search warrant and property receipt released last week. Officers seized 20 boxes of items and other materials, including several sets of documents marked top secret and classified, the property receipt showed.
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