A Florida judge formally rejected the Justice Department’s argument to keep the affidavit leading to the FBI’s raid on former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home sealed.
In his filing Monday, Judge Bruce Reinhart said he rejects “the Government’s argument that the present record justifies keeping the entire Affidavit under seal.”
“The Government argues that even requiring it to redact portions of the Affidavit that could not reveal agent identities or investigative sources and methods imposes an undue burden on its resources and sets a precedent that could be disruptive and burdensome in future cases,” he said.
“I do not need to reach the question of whether, in some other case, these concerns could justify denying public access; they very well might,” he continued.
Reinhart also noted the “intense public and historical interest in an unprecedented search of a former President’s residence.”
“The Government has not yet shown that these administrative concerns are sufficient to justify sealing,” he said.
Following a hearing last week, Reinhart gave the government until Thursday, Aug. 25 at noon to submit proposed redactions to the affidavit.
“Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that by the deadline, the Government shall file under seal a submission addressing possible redactions and providing any additional evidence or legal argument that the Government believes relevant to the pending Motions to Unseal,” the motion says.
Last week, during a hearing in the West Palm Beach Division of Florida, Reinhart said that the entire affidavit should not be kept under seal.
The Justice Department’s top counterintelligence official, Jay Bratt, argued that fully releasing the affidavit would “provide a roadmap to the investigation” and allow “amateur sleuths on the internet” to identify key witnesses.
“The government is very concerned about the safety of the witnesses in these cases and the impact of all the attention on these witnesses on other witnesses,” he said.
Reinhart will review the redactions and determine how best to proceed. He can choose to accept the recommendations from government prosecutors or perform his own redactions, reported Fox News.
Even though the former president has called for an “immediate” release of the document, Reinhart noted that Trump’s legal team had not taken a formal position on the unsealing.
“In the interest of TRANSPARENCY, I call for the immediate release of the completely Unredacted Affidavit pertaining to this horrible and shocking BREAK-IN,” Trump wrote.
Charles Tobin, an attorney representing several media outlets, argued Thursday that “maximum transparency” is necessary in the case. The outlets asked for a redacted version of the affidavit to be made public.
Bratt had argued that so much of the document’s contents would need to be concealed that “there would be nothing of substance that would remain.”
“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,” Reinhart said.
Earlier this month, Reinhart signed the warrant that gave the FBI authority to conduct the search. He also unsealed the FBI’s search warrant and property receipt after the raid.