The federal magistrate who approved the August 8 search of the former president donald trumpThe Palm Beach, Florida home ordered the release of a redacted version of the affidavit FBI agents used to obtain a warrant to search the ex-president’s property.
In a two-page order issued Thursday, Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart said the justice department had met the legal standard of “compelling reason” or “good cause” required to keep portions of the affidavit under seal, as disclosure of those portions would reveal “the identities of witnesses, law enforcement and unindicted parties” as well as the “strategy, direction, scope, sources and methods” of the ongoing investigation into whether Mr. Trump violated U.S. laws against the unauthorized withholding of information about national defense and obstruction of investigations.
He added that keeping portions of the affidavit sealed would also protect grand jury information that the government is required to keep secret under federal rules of criminal procedure.
“Based on my independent review of the affidavit, I further conclude that the government has met its burden of showing that its proposed redactions are closely tailored to serve the government’s legitimate interest in the integrity of the ‘under investigation and are the least expensive alternative to sealing the entire affidavit,’ he wrote.
Judge Reinhart ordered the government to submit the redacted version of the affidavit in the court’s e-filing system by noon Friday, when it will be available to the public.
The affidavit, which FBI agents submitted to the investigating judge when they applied for a warrant to search the former president’s home for classified documents that the government had probable cause to believe they were stored there, could shed light on how federal investigators knew Mr. Trump. had maintained a cache of highly classified documents despite having been absent for almost 18 months.
A coalition of media organizations and the conservative group Judicial Watch had argued for the release of an unredacted version of the document, citing extraordinary public interest in the unprecedented search of the home of a former president.
Although Mr. Trump’s attorneys did not join in the decision to unseal the document, members of Mr. Trump’s legal team called for his “release during media appearances.”
One of Mr. Trump’s attorneys, Alina Habba, said during an appearance on Newsmax last week that Mr. Trump’s stance was to unseal the entire affidavit, “find out everything,” including including the identity of the witnesses, “so that we can see what is going on”. ”.
“These witnesses really aren’t going to be hidden for very long,” she said.
Mr. Trump’s legal team previously released an unredacted version of the search warrant for his property to Breitbart News just before Magistrate Judge Reinhart ordered it to be unsealed days after the search.
The unredacted search warrant contained the names of two FBI agents who carried out the search, leading some of Mr Trump’s supporters to post alleged personal information about the officers and their family members on social media .
A copy of the property receipt given to Mr Trump’s lawyers, which was unsealed along with the warrant itself, showed FBI agents recovered 11 boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lagothe Palm Beach mansion transformed into a private club where the ex-president maintains his main residence and his post-presidential office.
According to the receipt, officers recovered several sets of classified documents, including some marked as containing “compartmentalized sensitive information” that is only intended to be viewed in special secure facilities.
The search of Mr. Trump’s property came after months of discussions between Mr. Trump’s lawyers and the National Archives and Records Administration, which under the President’s Archives Act is supposed to take over all records and documents created during a president’s term when it comes to an end. .
In January, Nara revealed that he had recovered 15 boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lago following negotiations with Mr Trump’s representatives.
A May 10 letter from Acting Archivist of the United States Debra Wall to Trump attorney Evan Corcoran, which was published by one of Trump’s conservative media allies, shows that Nara officials found highly classified documents among the boxes, including “items marked as classified national security information.” , down to the Top Secret level and including compartmented sensitive information and Special Access Program documents”.
Nara officials had attempted to recover even more classified documents that they believed Mr. Trump continued to harbor on his property with the help of the Justice Department, which had been negotiating with Mr. Trump’s lawyers for years. months before applying for a search warrant.