Judge orders redacted publication of Mar-a-Lago affidavit
Reinhart’s order came after Justice Department lawyers earlier Thursday offered redactions to the secret document that prompted him to approve the FBI’s search of the Palm Beach waterfront property that serves as both the residence of the former president and a private club for the members.
Reinhart pointed out that prosecutors had shown “good reason” to redact material from the affidavit that would reveal “the identities of witnesses, law enforcement officers and unindicted parties”, “strategy, direction, scope, sources and methods of the investigation” and “grand jury information”. ”
The judge appeared to approve all of the deletions proposed by the Department of Justice, some of which are intended to protect investigators’ sources and methods of gathering evidence in their criminal investigation of the “highly classified” documents the FBI discovered at Mar-a-Lago.
It’s unclear exactly what prosecutors claim should be protected from disclosure in the court submission and what specific arguments they made for secrecy, since the DOJ filing was filed under seal in federal court in West Palm Beach.
However, a Justice Department spokesperson confirmed that prosecutors complied with the order to submit those suggestions by noon Thursday. Court dockets that appeared just around the deadline said the documents were sealed and provided no further details.
“The United States has filed a sealed submission pursuant to the Court’s August 22 order,” spokesman Anthony Coley said in a brief statement. “The Department of Justice respectfully declines further comment while the Court considers the matter.”
At a hearing last week, Reinhart indicated he was inclined to release portions of the affidavit, though those documents typically remain sealed until criminal charges are filed or an investigation. be closed.
However, the judge said in a written order on Monday that he would not disclose details of the sources and methods the government relied on in the affidavit. But the intense national interest surrounding the investigation has drawn unusual attention to the progressive developments in the ongoing case, often fueled by the former president himself, who mounted a campaign to discredit the investigation, even then that it presented an increasingly acute legal threat.
A wide range of news organizations, as well as the conservative group Judicial Watch, asked the court to unseal the affidavit.
Trump has publicly stated that he wants all documents related to the research released, but he has not officially joined in the unsealing effort. His attorneys made a separate legal move on Monday to ask a third party to oversee the review of documents seized by the FBI in the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago. Another judge asked Trump’s attorneys to provide more details on their request by Friday.
The DOJ has previously said that if ordered by Reinhart, it would offer redactions so extensive that they would render the search affidavit meaningless to the public. However, the department is also under pressure to reveal more details based on the unprecedented decision to execute a search warrant at the home of a former president. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who has acknowledged directly approving the search, has already acknowledged the unusual urgency of the case, moving to unseal the search warrant itself, along with two redacted receipts for property taken from the Trump succession.
Adding to that pressure: Trump used the information vacuum to attack law enforcement and claim the search was a politically motivated attack on a potential White House candidate in 2024. He and his allies stepped up the fiery rhetoric surrounding the raid. Trump himself on Thursday morning described the search as “the greatest political attack in United States history,” in a post on his social media site.
But the department has resisted releasing parts of the underlying affidavit, warning it could scare away cooperative witnesses — especially amid a growing wave of violent threats against law enforcement and other people connected to the investigation – or reveal details about how the FBI gathered evidence in the case.
Making the document public could also set a precedent that would bolster efforts to obtain such documents in other high-profile and politically charged investigations. A Justice Department prosecutor told Reinhart the process would be a burden on the government to manage in a slew of cases, but the magistrate judge said in his order Monday that he was not concerned for the moment by other business.
“I need not address the question of whether, in another case, these concerns might justify denying public access; they very well might. Particularly given the intense public and historical interest generated by an unprecedented search of the residence of a former president, the government has yet to demonstrate that these administrative concerns are sufficient to warrant sealing.
It’s unclear if Reinhart’s decision will be the final say on who, if anything, will be released. The Justice Department and any entity seeking release of the affidavit could appeal its decision to a district court judge and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Reinhart suggested during last week’s hearing that he would not release anything until potential appeals were resolved.