Judge Bruce E. Reinhart ordered that the affidavit that was used to catalyze the FBI raid on former President Donald J. Trump’s Mar-A-Lago home in Florida be released by noon Friday, albeit with redactions.
Reinhart’s announcement came subsequent to the Justice Department’s proposal for numerous redactions to the affidavit before its release, The New York Times reported.
The Justice Department’s proposed redactions were “narrowly tailored to serve the government’s legitimate interest in the integrity of the ongoing investigation,” Reinhart claimed in his order, adding that they were “the least onerous alternative to sealing the entire affidavit.”
The Times opined that affidavits like the one to be released are rarely unsealed before the government files criminal charges, and the Justice Department has not yet claimed it will file charges against Trump.
“I think the document is likely to show there was no good-faith reason for the raid, despite the strained analysis of the Presidential Records Act,” Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, stated.
Redactions may include names of government witnesses in order to protect them. Trump’s attorneys filed a motion asking a special master to supervise a review of the documents taken from Trump’s home.
On Monday, Reinhart published a written order explaining his ground rules for releasing at least portions of the affidavit that triggered the search warrant.
“Numerous intervenors now move to unseal materials related to the search warrant,” Reinhart wrote in the Monday order, pointing out that his court on August 12 ordered the unsealing of the “warrant package,” which includes all relevant documents including the affidavit.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida offered redacted copies of several of the package documents to be unsealed, but not the affidavit.
“All that remains, then, is to decide whether the Affidavit should be unsealed in whole or in part,” Reinhart wrote. “The parties disagree whether a First Amendment right of public access applies to a sealed search warrant and related documents.”
Reinhart wrote that the First Amendment argument has limits.
“Where a sufficient reason exists, a court filing can be sealed from public view,” he wrote. “Despite the First Amendment right of access, a document can be sealed if there is a compelling governmental interest and the denial of access is ‘narrowly tailored to serve that interest.’”
Reinhart noted that the affidavit involves “matters of significant public concern,” and said at least some portions must be made public. He directed the DOJ to submit the affidavit with the redactions it deemed necessary and to defend its reasoning.
“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,” Reinhart ordered.