US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart has agreed to unseal the affidavit presented as justification for the search at former President Donald J. Trump’s home, Mar-a-Lago, after members of the press petitioned for its release. It is doubtful the entire affidavit, which provides the probable cause rationale for the forced entry and removal of documents from the Florida residence, will be made public. Reinhart has given the Department of Justice until noon on August 25 to propose redactions to the text.
The FBI entered Mar-a-Lago on the morning of Monday, August 8. Since then, conservative and left-leaning media outlets alike have called on the court to unseal the document. Reinhart’s order not only included the raid affidavit but also “the application for the warrant, the motion to seal and the cover sheet,” according to Fox Digital.
It was argued by Charles Tobin, who represented the media outlets’ request for the records to be unsealed, that “Transparency serves the public interest in understanding and accepting the results. That’s good for the government and the court,” according to a prominent Washington, DC, newspaper. The judge reportedly claimed he was “inclined” to open at least part of the document.
As well, the newspaper explained that, at the hearing, Reinhart “declined to accept the government’s argument that the entire affidavit should remain sealed because it would chill witnesses, expose grand jury material and reveal the next steps of an investigation that’s only in its ‘early stages.’”
During the intervening week between the raid and yesterday’s hearing, Mr. Trump called for the document to be “unsealed with no redactions.” A spokesperson for Trump reacted to yesterday’s news by stating:
“President Trump has made clear his view that the American people should be permitted to see the unredacted affidavit related to the raid and break-in of his home, Mar-a-Lago.
“Today, Magistrate Judge Reinhart rejected the DOJ’s cynical attempt to hide the whole affidavit from Americans. No redactions should be necessary, and the whole affidavit should be released, given the Democrats’ penchant for using redactions to hide government corruption, just like they did with the Russia hoax.”
Liberty Nation Legal Affairs Editor Scott D. Cosenza, Esq. says the chances of that happening are slim to none for several reasons:
“Well done affidavits supporting search warrants necessarily include sensitive information law enforcement would like to keep from a suspect or the public at large. The judge will likely allow significant redactions of information about how any source provided the government evidence against Trump. This case is far from ordinary, but the same rationale as more common criminal proceedings applies.”
It has been reported that the raid affidavit contains “highly sensitive” information, but the judge countered that “there were portions of the affidavit that could be presumptively unsealed,” according to The New York Times. “Whether those portions would be meaningful for the public or the media was not for him to decide,” the magistrate intoned during the proceedings.
The government prosecutor vociferously argued that unsealing the document could jeopardize the case and cast a “chill” over future witnesses. This Solomonic decision by Judge Reinhart to split the baby in two seems to have caught the DOJ off-guard. However, multiple reports say the judge was clear that in releasing portions of the affidavit that, “This is going to be a considered, careful process.”