The judge who signed the warrant that allowed the FBI to ransack Donald Trump’s Florida residence has ruled on the release of several supporting documents, including the affidavit used for justification.
After a scheduled hearing on Thursday, Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the release of the sealing order, motion to seal, and the criminal cover sheet. Part of the affidavit will also be released, though the government will be given a week to submit proposed redactions.
Judge Bruce Reinhart will unseal documents used for FBI’s raid on Mar-a-Lago:
– sealing order
– motion to seal
– criminal cover sheet
All of these documents will be heavily redacted. Search warrant affidavit ruling yet to come.
— Kyle Becker (@kylenabecker) August 18, 2022
Judge Reinhart said the entire affidavit should NOT be kept under seal and gave the government ONE week to submit proposed redactions under seal. The deadline for the government to submit those proposed redactions is August 25th at noon.
— Jake Gibson (@JakeBGibson) August 18, 2022
Here’s the actual order from the judge which reads as very skeptical of the government’s attempts to keep things under wraps.
Trump case: trying to keep the search affidavit sealed isn’t going well for the government.
Judge says: “I find that on the present record the Government has not met its burden of showing that the entire affidavit should remain sealed.”
— Marina Medvin 🇺🇸 (@MarinaMedvin) August 18, 2022
The question now becomes how much we will learn once these documents are out in the open. I suspect the government’s redactions will be extensive and overwrought, to the point of making the release pointless. It will be up to Judge Reinhart to stop any attempt to over-redact and hide things from a public that deserves answers. To this point, he has done more to provide for transparency than many thought he would (including myself), so perhaps the DOJ won’t be allowed to spill black ink everywhere as it usually does. Every redaction will have to be justified in court, and hopefully, the generic “this could harm our investigation” line won’t be good enough.
The government does have precedent on its side in regards to keeping the affidavit mostly secret and judges tend to give a nod to that. Of course, the Mar-a-Lago raid itself was unprecedented and the leaks surrounding it also look really bad, so the argument for following normal procedure rings hollow. This isn’t a normal investigation. It’s a politicized operation that is clearly using targeted leaks from inside the DOJ/FBI to try to harm a political opponent of the current president. Unusual times call for unusual measures. Judge Reinhart can recognize that or he can be part of the cover-up. That’s a decision he’ll have to make.
I still suspect the justification for the raid was weak, and that’s why the government is fighting so hard to not have to reveal what was behind it. The warrant read like a free-for-all, allowing the FBI to seize basically whatever it wanted. Focused investigations, which is what AG Merrick Garland claimed this is, aren’t conducted that way. We’ll learn a lot more soon enough, but the mere fact that any part of the affidavit is going to be released is a big win. That’s very, very unusual.