A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to unseal a redacted version of the affidavit used to approve a warrant to search former President Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida.
Judge Bruce Reinhart issued the directive just hours after DOJ officials submitted to the court portions of the affidavit they wanted to remain secret.
The order requires the Justice Department to file a public version of the redacted affidavit by noon Aug. 26.
In a decision on Aug. 22, the judge noted the DOJ’s position that the “government asserted there was a good cause for sealing the entire Warrant Package” because public disclosure may compromise the investigation. But, he acknowledged “the intense public and historical interest in an unprecedented search of a former President’s residence” sets a high bar to justify sealing the document in its entirety.
Judge Reinhart, in the order to release a redacted version, wrote “the Government has met its burden of showing that its proposed redactions are narrowly tailored” to provide transparency while still protecting the government’s interest in continuing its investigation.
He also stated that he finds the redactions proposed by Justice Department officials to be reasonable, as disclosure would reveal the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents, and uncharged parties; the investigation’s strategy, direction, scope, sources, and methods; and grand jury information protected by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e).
FBI agents raided former president Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago home and confiscated 11 boxes, which the DOJ claims contained classified documents. Trump maintains that any documents he held at his palatial Florida residence had already been declassified.
Just days before the request to unseal the affidavit that justified the unprecedented search, a former Trump aide concurred that the documents had previously been declassified. He also stated that the documents taken by the federal agents contained information related to FBI and CIA involvement in the investigation into whether Trump’s transition team or administration had any involvement or connection to the Russian government.
The DOJ is able to appeal the decision to release the redacted affidavit.