Judge formally rejects DOJ logic to keep affidavit sealed in ‘unprecedented’ FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago

The American people may be one step closer to discovering what the Department of Justice used to justify their warrant to raid former President Donald Trump’s Florida home after the judge set a deadline ordering the government to present a valid legal argument to prevent the public from understanding the “unprecedented search.”

Since Aug. 8, the cagey responses from the Justice Department and their efforts to keep the affidavit sealed have only fueled speculation that the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago was at least a fishing expedition and, at worst, a political persecution conducted by a weaponized federal agency. On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who approved the search warrant of Trump’s residence, ruled in favor of “Intervenors” that included Judicial Watch, The Associated Press and CBS Broadcasting, Inc. and rejected the DOJ’s initial attempt to keep the document sealed.

“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 wrote in his order on motions to unseal. “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. 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.”

“Particularly given the intense public and historical interest in an unprecedented search of a former President’s residence,” he continued, “the Government has not yet shown that these administrative concerns are sufficient to justify sealing. I therefore reject the Government’s argument that the present record justifies keeping the entire Affidavit under seal.”

The DOJ had contended a week ago that, “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,” and further claimed it could “chill future cooperation by witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses, as well as in other high-profile investigations.”

Reinhart disagreed with these assertions and stated, “Allowing access to the unredacted Affidavit would not impair court functions. Having carefully reviewed the Affidavit before signing the Warrant, I was–and am–satisfied that the facts sworn by the affiant are reliable. So, releasing the Affidavit to the public would not cause false information to be disseminated.”

“It is a foundational principle of American law that judicial proceedings should be open to the public. An individual’s right to access judicial records may arise from the common law, the First Amendment, or both,” he outlined, before adding, “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.'”

This being something that the judge decided had not been fulfilled by the government as of yet.

Prior to Reinhart’s order Monday, Trump had teased Friday that he would be filling his own “motion pertaining to the Fourth Amendment” as it concerned “the illegal Break-in of my home, Mar-a-Lago, right before the ever important Mid-Term Elections,” having already demanded the unsealing of the affidavit.

“My rights, together with the rights of all Americans, have been violated at a level rarely seen before in our Country,” Trump continued. “Remember, they even spied on my campaign. The greatest Witch Hunt in USA history has been going on for six years, with no consequences to the scammers. It should not be allowed to continue!”

The judge acknowledged the speculation that the lack of transparency had created as he wrote, “No one disputes that there has been much public discourse about this Warrant and the related investigation. Nevertheless, much of the information being discussed is based on anonymous sources, speculation, or hearsay; the Government has not confirmed its accuracy.”

“Accordingly,” he concluded, “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.”

Reinhart gave the government until noon on Thursday to present any additional details to support their case for secrecy for his consideration in fulfilling a request from the government had he declined to seal the affidavit.


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