Judge orders redacted Mar-a-Lago search affidavit unsealed

Politics

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (NewsNation) — A federal judge Thursday ordered the Justice Department to make public a redacted version of the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart said the department must unseal its redacted version by noon Friday.

The directive came just hours after the DOJ submitted the affidavit with proposed redactions, or blacked-out portions they want to keep secret, to the judge for consideration.

The redactions by the department are likely to be extensive, so it’s not clear how much new information about the investigation will be revealed when the document is unsealed.

The DOJ has tried to keep the affidavit sealed, saying the investigation is currently ongoing and releasing the document could hamper investigators’ efforts.

“If disclosed, the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course, in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps,” the DOJ wrote in a motion last week to keep the affidavit sealed.

Judge Reinhart declined that motion.

Reinhart acknowledged on Monday that it was possible that the redactions would be so extensive as to make the document essentially incomprehensible.

“You can include me in those people who expect to see large chunks of redacted pages, of black and nothing there,” former federal prosecutor David Weinstein told NewsNation. “There’s a lot of information here which is sensitive to the investigation, which is classified.”

However, the affidavit could provide more specific details as to what the Department of Justice believed was at Mar-a-Lago and why they felt the need to conduct a search.

“The public has a right to know why the government invaded Mar a Lago and searched it,” said criminal defense attorney Arie Shamuilian. “And the government has an equal interest of wanting to prevent any of the facts from being disclosed in an effort to try to prevent the investigation from getting jeopardized.”

The FBI searched the former president’s Palm Beach estate on Aug. 8.

An earlier release of the search warrant painted a picture of the possible crimes authorities believe Trump may have committed, including violating the Espionage Act. The warrant also revealed that 33 documents ranging from “top secret” to “classified” were pulled from the estate.

The National Archives and Records Administration recovered more than 100 documents bearing classified markings, totaling more than 700 pages, from an initial batch of 15 boxes retrieved from Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, according to newly public government correspondence with the Trump legal team.

Trump has urged the release of the unredacted affidavit and has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government following what he calls an “un-American break-in.”

Trump and his legal team claim all of the documents were declassified and rightfully in his possession. The fact the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago indicates authorities do not believe that claim to be true.

The DOJ submission of the redacted affidavit comes as a new NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ poll found that most Americans approve of the FBI’s search of Trump’s estate. More than 93% of Democrats and 61% of independents surveyed said they somewhat or strongly approve of the FBI’s raid of Trump’s Florida home, compared to just 30% of Republicans who said the same.

Read the judge’s order to release the redacted affidavit below:

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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