Judge Allows Heavily Redacted Release Of Mar-a-Lago Affidavit

PALM BEACH, FL - JANUARY 11: The Atlantic Ocean is seen adjacent to President Donald Trump's beach front Mar-a-Lago resort, also sometimes called his Winter White House, the day after Florida received an exemption f... PALM BEACH, FL - JANUARY 11: The Atlantic Ocean is seen adjacent to President Donald Trump's beach front Mar-a-Lago resort, also sometimes called his Winter White House, the day after Florida received an exemption from the Trump Administration's newly announced ocean drilling plan on January 11, 2018 in Palm Beach, Florida. Florida was the only state to receive an exemption from the announced deregulation plan to allow offshore oil and gas drilling in all previously protected waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) MORE LESS

A federal magistrate ordered the Justice Department to unseal portions of the affidavit that led to the FBI searches of Mar-a-Lago last week.

Per a docket entry from Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, prosecutors have until next Thursday at noon to provide proposed redactions.

With government redactions, the release of the affidavit is very, very unlikely to reveal much about the investigation. The government argued in a Monday filing that “the redactions necessary to mitigate harms to the integrity of the investigation would be so extensive as to render the remaining unsealed text devoid of meaningful content.”

Various media and advocacy organizations had petitioned the judge to release the affidavit, citing the immense public interest in understanding the reasons for the FBI’s searches of Mar-a-Lago last week.

Trump, whose residence was the subject of the search, did not take any position in court on the release of the records. He did wail on social media that the DOJ needed to release as much information as possible — including the affidavit.

The DOJ said in the filing earlier this week that the affidavit provided a “roadmap” to the investigation that led to the seizure of classified records that former President Trump stashed away in Mar-a-Lago. It added that revealing the entire affidavit would likely compromise witnesses.

Jay Bratt, the DOJ’s counterintelligence chief, purportedly said at a Thursday hearing on the matter in south Florida that the investigation remains in its “early stages,” emphasizing that disclosing witnesses would harm both the probe — and, potentially, those who talk.

After the FBI raid, Trump declined to release the search warrant and inventory of items seized that he received after federal agents departed.

Instead, he began to demand publicly that the DOJ release as much information as it had to explain to him why the raid took place.

The searches followed 19 months of Trump secreting records in Mar-a-Lago that he took unlawfully from the White House as he left office. After negotiations with the National Archives, requests from officials, and a grand jury subpoena, the FBI reportedly realized that Trump had still squirreled away government and classified information, triggering the search warrant.

Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement saying that the DOJ would petition for the release of the search warrant and attachments — but not for the affidavit. That move called Trump’s bluff, leading to the release of those documents.

At the hearing, Judge Reinhart reportedly said that “this is going to be a considered, careful process.” Reinhart has faced a wave of threats and harassment campaigns from Trump’s supporters since signing off on the search warrant.

He declined to say whether what will be released will be “meaningful for the public or the media.”

After the hearing, Reinhart released a copy of the cover sheet for the search warrant – the last outstanding documents whose release prosecutors supported.

The sheet showed the crimes that justified the searches – willful retention of national defense information, concealment or removal of government records, and obstruction.

It also showed the basis for the search: evidence of a crime, and illegal possession of contraband.

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