A federal magistrate judge ordered Thursday that the Justice Department make public portions of the affidavit that was used to obtain a warrant to search former President Donald Trump’s home last week.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart gave the U.S. government until next Thursday to make redactions to sensitive portions of the affidavit that could potentially compromise the ongoing criminal investigation.
“I’m going to move forward in that way,” Reinhart told prosecutors and various media organizations that had sued to get documents related to the case unsealed.
Reinhart said that if there was a disagreement between the U.S. government and the Court that “obviously I win.”
“This is going to be a considerate, careful process,” he added.
Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt argued in court that unsealing the affidavit was a meaningless exercise because by the time prosecutors were finished with redacting sensitive portions of the document, the final product would “not edify the public in any meaningful way.”
“Disclosure at this juncture of the affidavit supporting probable cause would, by contrast, cause significant and irreparable damage to this ongoing criminal investigation,” Bratt argued in a court filing earlier this week. “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.”
The criminal investigation into Trump was launched after the National Archives discovered last year that Trump had taken government records when he left office that they were supposed to receive. Officials reviewed more than a dozen boxes that Trump returned earlier this year and discovered that many documents were marked as classified. The National Archives contacted the DOJ and the DOJ, in turn, convened a federal grand jury.
A subpoena was subsequently issued to retrieve the remaining documents. Trump’s advisers urged him to return the documents, but he decided against doing so. Investigators visited Trump’s Florida residence at Mar-a-Lago in June and were shown by Trump’s lawyers the storage area where some of the classified material was being kept. The investigators left with the classified material. After that visit, at least one of Trump’s lawyers reportedly signed a written statement saying that all the classified information had been returned.
After the meeting, those investigators told Trump’s team that they needed to take additional steps to further secure the room where some White House records were being stored. Subpoenaed surveillance footage from outside the storage room showed that boxes were shuffled in and out of the room over a two-month period. At some point during the investigation, a source close to the president gave the FBI information that led them to believe that there was additional classified material on the property.
During the FBI’s raid on Trump’s home last week, which U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland authorized, investigators recovered at least 4 sets of top secret documents, 3 sets of secret documents, and 3 sets of confidential documents during their search.
This report has been updated to include additional information.