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Affidavit used in the hunt for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago to be partially unsealed, judge says

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An aerial view of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home after Trump said that FBI agents raided it, in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. August 15, 2022.

Marco Bello | Reuters

A federal judge said that parts of the affidavit used to acquire a search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s resort home Mar-a-Lago may be unsealed, NBC News reported Thursday.

The choice from U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart got here after the Department of Justice asked him to not unseal the highly sensitive document, which details the federal government’s view that it had probable cause to imagine the search of Mar-a-Lago would turn up evidence of illegality.

The federal government’s investigation into the records seized from Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida, residence remains to be in its “early stages,” argued Jay Bratt, head of a DOJ counterintelligence team, NBC reported.

The affidavit comprises “substantial grand jury” information in a case with “national security overtones,” Bratt reportedly said within the hearing.

Reinhart disagreed, saying he believed “there are portions of it that may be unsealed.”

In a written order later Thursday, Reinhart wrote, “As I ruled from the bench on the conclusion of the hearing, I find that on the current record the Government has not met its burden of showing that your complete affidavit should remain sealed.”

The judge gave the federal government per week to file proposed redactions to the affidavit.

The prosecutors had previously urged the court to reject calls from media outlets and other entities to reveal the affidavit, which supported the search warrant utilized by FBI agents within the Aug. 8 raid on Mar-a-Lago.

Trump has publicly called for the affidavit to be released without redactions, though his lawyers haven’t yet filed a motion asking the judge to accomplish that.

The previous president “has made his view clear that the American people needs to be permitted to see the unredacted affidavit related to the raid and break-in of his home,” his spokesman Taylor Budowich said on Twitter after the hearing. His tweets praised Reinhart for rejecting “the DOJ’s cynical try to hide the entire affidavit from Americans,” but insisted that “no redactions needs to be crucial.”

The search warrant itself had been publicly released with the DOJ’s approval last week. That document and attached materials indicated that the agents were in search of materials related to a few criminal statutes, one in all which was a part of the Espionage Act.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, who said he personally approved the warrant, supported its disclosure in light of the “substantial public interest on this matter.”

However the affidavit “presents a really different set of considerations,” federal prosecutors wrote in a court filing Monday.

The still-sealed document comprises “critically necessary and detailed investigative facts” about witnesses and other “highly sensitive information” related to the continued criminal probe, which “implicates national security,” the prosecutors wrote.

If disclosed, the affidavit could be “highly prone to compromise future investigative steps,” said the filing, which was signed by Bratt, the top of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the DOJ’s National Security Division.

The present criminal investigation stems from a probe of presidency records that were transferred to Mar-a-Lago as an alternative of the National Archives after Trump left office in 2021.

FBI agents sought all records and other evidence “illegally possessed” in violation of three criminal statutes, based on the search warrant and property receipt released last week. The agents seized 20 boxes of things and other materials, including multiple sets of documents marked top secret and classified, the property receipt showed.

Not one of the three statutes — Title 18 of america Code, Sections 7931519 and 2071 — hinge on whether the documents in query were classified.

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