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Redacted Mar-a-Lago search affidavit to be released by noon Friday

The judge who approved the search warrant for Trump’s home said the redacted version of the affidavit should be public

President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, which was searched by the FBI on Aug. 8. (Steve Helber/AP)

A redacted version of the affidavit justifying the FBI search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence must be unsealed in federal court by noon Friday, a judge ordered Thursday afternoon.

The order arrived hours after Justice Department lawyers submitted proposed redactions they felt were necessary to avoid jeopardizing witnesses or undermining the high-profile investigation into the handling of classified documents, which the Justice Department has characterized as still in the “early stages.”

Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart apparently agreed with the government’s proposed redactions and, in response to requests from multiple news organizations, ordered the affidavit to be made available for public view.

“I find that the Government has met its burden of showing a compelling reason/good cause to seal portions of the Affidavit because disclosure would reveal (1) the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents, and uncharged parties, (2) the investigation’s strategy, direction, scope, sources, and methods, and (3) grand jury information protected by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure,” Reinhart wrote in his order.

The affidavit likely contains key information about the investigation into classified documents that were kept at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private resort after he left office, including why FBI agents suspect crimes may have been committed.

Trump’s legal team assembled Thursday afternoon at the former president’s Bedminster golf club in order to discuss the investigation.

Justice Department lawyers argued in court last week that making the affidavit public could jeopardize the safety of witnesses and hamper the probe. Until the redacted version is filed in court, the public will not know how much the Justice Department has shielded from view in the affidavit and whether this version will reveal any illuminating details about the investigation.

Reinhart — who has read the full affidavit and signed off on the FBI’s application for a search warrant earlier this month — said he believed parts of the document could be made public without impeding the probe.

“I’m not prepared to find the affidavit should be fully sealed,” Reinhart said last week in a West Palm Beach courtroom. “I believe based on my initial careful review of the affidavit many times, that there are portions that could preemptively be unsealed.”

Trump's secret papers and the 'myth' of presidential security clearance

The affidavit has become another flash point in a criminal probe scrutinizing materials taken from the White House when Trump’s term ended last year. On Aug. 8, FBI agents executed a search warrant at the estate in Palm Beach, carting away about 20 boxes containing what authorities have characterized as highly classified national secrets.

Law enforcement officials submit sworn affidavits to a judge as part of their application for a search warrant. They typically contain information addressing why authorities think there is evidence at a certain property and other details about their investigation.

In unredacted form, it would provide the most comprehensive rationale for why the government pushed to search Trump’s property — and what investigative steps it had taken beforehand. It would show who the government had interviewed, what they believed was potentially on the premises and why they believed there was probable cause that crimes had been committed.

Multiple media outlets, including The Washington Post, called on the judge to unseal all the court documents related to the Mar-a-Lago search.

Attorney General Merrick Garland asked Reinhart to unseal the warrant and an inventory list that includes vague descriptions of the classified materials federal agents say they recovered from Mar-a-Lago, but opposed the release of the affidavit.

Trump’s position on the release of the affidavit has been unclear. He has publicly called for the release of the full document while denouncing the investigation — which originated as a dispute with the National Archives — as politically motivated. But his lawyers did not file a motion in court making their case to either unseal the affidavit or keep it sealed.

Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.

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