PALM BEACH, FL – A federal magistrate is currently weighing a request whether or not to unseal the affidavit – and thus making it a part of the public record – that served as the basis for the FBI raid upon former President Donald Trump’s Mar-A—Lago residence in Florida last week.
West Palm Beach Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart is slated to hear arguments from both the Department of Justice, who currently wish to keep the affidavit under wraps to protect their investigation, and several media organizations – including the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and CNN – who are arguing for its public release in order to prove that the raid was indeed for legitimate reasons.
Judge Reinhart is the individual who originally signed the search warrant used to conduct the search of Trump’s home on August 8, with the FBI reportedly seeking classified documents that the former President was alleged to have taken with him when he left the White House, potentially a violation of the Espionage Act. In all, FBI agents reportedly seized 27 boxes of document that were purportedly in Trump’s possession, 11 sets of which were deemed “top secret,” “secret,” or “confidential.”
The documents in question had already been declassified by the time they had made their way to his residence, Trump has claimed.
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Trump, his allies, and some media commentators have hypothesized that the raid may have actually had its roots in the January 6 investigation as a means to build a criminal case against Trump and prevent him from running for the White House again in 2024. Trump has personally demanded the “immediate release” of the affidavit, which – unless it was redacted before release – would include the identity of the source that is alleged to have tipped the FBI off.
South Florida U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez and DOJ Counterintelligence Chief Jay Bratt are currently adamant that the affidavit should not yet be made public – which usually happens only after an arrest has been made, although in extraordinary circumstances this policy has been circumvented – because it could divulge sensitive information and possibly derail the case they are building.
“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 argued.
UPDATE AUG 18, 2022, 5:19 PM: Judge orders DOJ to release a redacted version of the Trump affidavit by next Thursday. The portions of the affidavit will only include procedural documents, which the Justice Department did not oppose. Apparently the identities of sources will still remain sealed for the time being.