(Headline USA) U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart on Thursday ordered the Justice Department to put forward proposed redactions as he committed to making public at least part of the affidavit supporting the search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s estate in Florida.
Reinhart gave prosecutors a week to submit a copy of the affidavit with proposed redactions for the information it wants to keep secret after the FBI claimed to have seized classified and top secret information during a search at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last week.
The Justice Department also revealed during Thursday’s hearing that the investigation into whether Trump illegally stored classified records at his Florida estate—and potentially violated the Espionage Act—is still “in its early stages.”
Jay Bratt, a top Justice Department national security prosecutor, had argued that the affidavit should remain hidden from the public.
Unsealing it, he claimed, would provide a “road map” of the investigation—which is in its “early stages”—and expose the next steps to be taken by federal agents and prosecutors.
He argued it was in the public interest for the investigation, including interviews of witnesses, to go forward unhindered.
As the hearing kicked off, a small caravan of vehicles with Trump flags drove past the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach, Florida.
An attorney for Trump, Christina Bobb, was in the courthouse on Thursday but said she was only there to observe the court proceeding.
Reinhart—a fervent leftist who previously recused himself from a case involving Trump suing Hillary Clinton and several other co-conspirators in the Russia-collusion hoax—gave the government until next Thursday to submit its version with the proposed redactions.
He said he would then review it and may meet lawyers for the government and give them a chance to make an argument for why specific information should be withheld.
Original story below:
Hack-Judge Reinhart to Rule Thursday on Unsealing Trump Affidavit
Attorneys for many of the nation’s largest media companies will try to persuade a federal magistrate judge on Thursday afternoon to make public the affidavit supporting the warrant that allowed FBI agents to search former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate last week.
The Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the broadcast TV networks, CNN and others want U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart to release the affidavit over the objection of the U.S. Justice Department, which says its investigation of Trump’s handling of “highly classified material” would be compromised.
None of the charges from the earlier released warrant point to any crimes for which the classification of the documents in question would be part of the prosecution’s burden of proof—suggesting that the corrupted law-enforcement apparatus was using that as cover for what many have condemned as a partisan fishing expedition.
Trump has argued that, as the head of the executive branch, the president has the authority to declassify documents at any time during his term in office.
Few, if any, precedents exist since no past DOJ has ever pursued criminal charges against an elected leader for such a mundane matter. However, theories have spread on both the right and left that the “top secret” contents could contain anything from U.S. nuclear codes to damning information about the FBI’s role in the Russia-collusion hoax that undermined Trump’s presidency.
The media companies argue the affidavit’s release would help the public determine if the Justice Department had legitimate reasons for the search or if it was part of a Biden administration vendetta against Trump, as the former president and his backers contend.
Trump, in a Truth Social post last week, called for the release of the unredacted affidavit in the interest of transparency.
“The matter is one of utmost public interest, involving the actions of current and former government officials,” wrote attorney Carol Jean LoCiero, who is representing the Times and others. “President Trump decried the the search as an ‘assault that could only take place in Third World Countries,’ asserted agents ‘even broke into my safe,’ and otherwise challenged the validity of the search.”
Justice Department attorneys claimed in a court filing that its investigation into Trump’s handling of “highly classified material” is ongoing and that the document contains sensitive information about witnesses.
The filing by Juan Antonio Gonzalez, the U.S. attorney in Miami, and Jay Bratt, a top Justice Department national security official, says making the affidavit public would “cause significant and irreparable damage to this ongoing criminal investigation.”
“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,” they wrote.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Trump’s attorneys had not indicated on the court’s docket that they plan to take part in the hearing.
FBI agents searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on Aug. 8, removing 11 sets of classified documents, with some not only marked top secret but also “sensitive compartmented information,” according to a receipt of what was taken that was released Friday.
That is a special category meant to protect the nation’s most important secrets that if revealed publicly could cause “exceptionally grave” damage to U.S. interests. The court records did not provide specific details about information the documents might contain.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press