The federal judge in Florida who approved the warrant for the FBI to search former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate has ordered the release of a redacted affidavit that prosecutors used to secure it.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart on Thursday set a deadline of noon ET Friday for the release of the document after the Justice Department submitted proposed redactions under seal to the affidavit.
Reinhart had ordered the DOJ to submit a redacted version and explain the rationale behind those redactions.
In his ruling, Reinhart said the government had met its "burden of showing a compelling reason/good cause to seal portions" of the affidavit because it would compromise the ongoing investigation into Trump’s handling of classified materials. The Justice Department can appeal.
The affidavit, which details the probable cause on which the search warrant was based, remains under seal.
Citing public interest in the search, multiple news organizations had filed motions asking for its release.
During a hearing last week, Reinhart said he was inclined to partially unseal the affidavit that prosecutors used to secure the warrant for the Aug. 8 search of Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla., estate.
In a formal order issued Monday, Reinhart acknowledged the “intense public and historical interest in an unprecedented search of a former President's residence,” and said the DOJ had not yet proven that releasing it would compromise its ongoing investigation.
Reinhart also admitted that the release of a heavily redacted version of the affidavit would render the document “meaningless.”
Trump had called for the public release of the full affidavit, but lawyers for the former president did not participate in last week’s hearing.
They did, however, ask a different federal judge to prevent the FBI from continuing to review documents recovered from his Florida estate until a neutral special master can be appointed.
That judge, Aileen Cannon in the Southern District of Florida, gave the Trump legal team until Friday to refine the legal arguments in its request.
A search warrant and property receipt from the FBI’s search released on Aug. 12 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.
President Biden has denied that he had any advance notice of the search.
At the conclusion of a White House event detailing Biden's plan to cancel student loan debt for some Americans Wednesday, a Fox News reporter asked the president, "How much advance notice did you have of the FBI's plan to search Mar-a-Lago?"
"I didn't have any advance notice," Biden responded. "None, zero, not one single bit. Thank you."