The federal judge in Florida who approved the warrant for the FBI to search former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate says he is inclined to partially unseal the affidavit that prosecutors used to secure it.
At a court hearing in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the Justice Department to file a redacted version of the affidavit by next Thursday, and told prosecutors to be prepared to explain the rationale behind those redactions.
Multiple news organizations had asked Reinhart to unseal the affidavit detailing the probable cause on which the search warrant was based.
“The public interest could not be greater,” Chuck Tobin, a lawyer representing the media groups, argued in court Thursday.
Tobin called the FBI's Aug. 8 search of Trump’s South Florida residence “one of the most significant events in the nation’s history.”
The Justice Department said its disclosure would compromise the ongoing investigation into Trump’s handling of classified materials.
Jay Bratt, chief of counterintelligence at the DOJ, told Reinhart that releasing the affidavit could jeopardize several witnesses whose accounts were specific enough that they could be identified, and would harm prosecutors’ ability to interview additional witnesses.
Bratt also said that the affidavit contained “substantial grand jury information.”
The Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Trump’s conduct, he added, is still in its “early stages.”
The former president’s legal team was in court Thursday but did not offer any formal argument.
During the hearing, Reinhart ordered the unsealing of some procedural documents related to the affidavit, which the Justice Department did not oppose.
Trump had called for the release of the affidavit — and for Reinhart to recuse himself from overseeing the case.
“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 in a post on Truth Social, his social media platform, on Monday. “Also, the Judge on this case should recuse!”
Since approving the search of Mar-a-Lago, Reinhart — who is Jewish — has been the target of threats and antisemitic comments online.
On Friday, Reinhart unsealed a search warrant and property receipt from the FBI’s search, which both the government and Trump’s lawyers agreed should be public. The documents showed that agents seized nearly two dozen boxes from Trump’s home, including 11 sets of classified records and some that were labeled “top secret,” the highest level of classification reserved for the most closely held U.S. national security information.
The warrant indicated that the former president is under investigation for several potential crimes, including possible violations of the Espionage Act and potential obstruction of justice charges.
Trump has claimed without evidence that the investigation is a politically motivated “weaponization” of the Justice Department. He’s also suggested that the FBI planted” evidence and insisted that he had a “standing order” to declassify documents that left the Oval Office for his residence.