Judge leaves open possibility redactions in Trump affidavit could make it ‘meaningless’

A federal judge who said last week that he is “inclined” to unseal some of the affidavit central to the FBI search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida estate left open the possibility in a written order Monday that it would be so heavily redacted that releasing it would be “meaningless.”

After hearing arguments in court on Thursday, Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart ordered Justice Department officials to submit proposed redactions by Thursday at noon Eastern time.

The Justice Department has opposed releasing the document, saying that its investigation is in the “early stages” and that making the affidavit public could chill potential witnesses, risk the safety of those already interviewed and reveal future investigative steps. News organizations are pushing for its disclosure, citing public interest in a case stemming from Trump’s possession of classified documents.

“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 said in the written order Monday.

The order also makes explicit that Reinhart rejected the Justice Department’s argument that “the present record justifies keeping the entire Affidavit under seal.”

The affidavit has become the latest flash point in a criminal probe scrutinizing materials taken from the White House when Trump’s term ended last year. On Aug. 8, FBI agents executed a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., carting away dozens of boxes containing what authorities have characterized as highly classified national secrets.

Judge signals he’s willing to unseal some of Mar-a-Lago affidavit

Reinhart said that he would not make a decision about unsealing the document until reviewing the government’s proposed redactions and would stay any ruling pending potential appeals — meaning the affidavit may not be made public for some time, if ever.

The affidavit would provide the most comprehensive rationale for why the government pushed to search Trump’s property — and what investigative steps it took beforehand. It would show whom the Justice officials had interviewed, what they believed potentially on the premises and why they assessed there was probable cause that crimes had been committed.

Writing on his Truth Social platform, Trump called last week for “the immediate release of the completely Unredacted Affidavit.” However, his lawyers have yet to follow through in court.

The public judge noted that in the two weeks since the FBI seized classified documents, Trump has not filed a legal motion about whether the affidavit should be made.

“Neither Former President Trump nor anyone else purporting to be the owner of the Premises has filed a pleading taking a position on the Intervenors’ Motions to Unseal,” the judge wrote.

Leave a Comment