Florida judge REJECTS Biden administration’s bid to keep entire Mar-a-Lago search affidavit sealed and calls the Trump raid ‘unprecedented’ – but says a full release could lead to obstruction and witness intimidation
- US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart released order on government’s motion to unseal
- Media outlets want to unseal affidavit that provided reasons for warrant
- On Thursday judge told DOJ to prepare a redacted version of the affidavit
- Document contains info that undergirded Mar-a-Lago
- Government argues it could impede the investigation and reveal witnesses
The federal judge considering the push to unseal the affidavit that bolstered the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago issued an order Monday rejecting the government’s push to keep the entire document under wraps and revealed his inclination to make public at least some of the information.
Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart in his new order rejects the government’s argument that ‘the present record justifies keeping the entire Affidavit under seal.’
The judge instead calls for ‘narrowly tailoring’ what is made public and searching for the ‘least onerous alternatives’ – a posture that could make new information on the government’s investigation public within days.
It came in an order where the judge – who signed off the on the FBI’s search warrant for parts of the former president’s home and golf club – said there is a ‘significant likelihood’ that unsealing it ‘could then impede the ongoing investigation through obstruction of justice and witness intimidation or retaliation.’
He also said it is likely it ‘would harm legitimate privacy interests by directly disclosing the identity of the affiant as well as providing evidence that could be used to identify witnesses.’
A view of the Paul G. Rogers Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, before a Federal judge holds a hearing on the motion to unseal the search warrant on former President Donald Trump’s home, in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. August 18, 2022. Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart issued a new order in the case Monday
The judge put off a final decision last week and told the government to come back with proposed redactions to the document.
But he rejected DOJ’s claim that putting out a redacted version would be essentially meaningless because of all the information that would be blacked out. DOJ said in court last week that doing so would result in a document ‘devoid of content that would meaningfully enhance the public’s understanding.’
‘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,’ the judge said in the order, hedging.
The order comes as media organizations pushed a judge to unseal an affidavit that preceded the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago
Former President Donald Trump fumed about the raid and has issued a series of fundraising pleas citing it. He did not intervene in the matter, the judge noted
The judge issued the order in response to an intervention by media organizations
An armed Secret Service agent stands outside an entrance to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla.
US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart told DOJ to propose redactions by Thursday
He also said the affidavit in its un-redacted form discloses ‘sources and methods’ in the ongoing investigation.
Trump has been fuming since the unprecedented raid, which has also appeared to trigger boost for Trump against potential Republican rivals while sparking a series of fundraising pleas by the former president.
He noted that ‘Neither Former President Trump nor anyone else purporting to be the owner of the Premises has filed a pleading taking a position on the Intervenors’ Motions to Unseal,’ a posture that some observers have noted keeps Trump’s team from being at the table during the dispute over redactions.
Procedural documents unsealed last week described an ‘ongoing investigation,’ as investigators probe potential obstruction of justice or potential violation of the Espionage Act, which contains sections on willful mishandling or taking of government documents.
The New York Times on Saturday reported on the chaotic final days of the Trump White House that came before federal authorities would ultimately retrieve 15 boxes of information from Mar-a-Lago. That came before the FBI raid this month.
Members of the White House counsel had told former White House Chief of Staff that about two dozen boxes of materials in the White House residence needed to be turned over to the National Archives.
But top aides were busy dealing with a skein of issues, including a flurry of pardons that Trump issued, including one to former aide Steve Bannon and one to Albert Pirro, the former husband of Fox News host Jeanine Pirro.
Meadows in his last weeks also ‘prodded federal law enforcement agencies to declassify a binder of Crossfire Hurricane materials’ from the Russia probe, including texts from ‘FBI lovers’ Peter Strzok and Lisa page, who had become a fixation of Trump. .