During a hearing last week, Judge Bruce Reinhart indicated that he was inclined to release parts of the affidavit, even though those documents generally remain sealed until criminal charges are filed or until an investigation is closed.
However, the judge said in a written order on Monday that he would not disclose details of the sources and methods the government relied on in the affidavit. He also has left open the possibility that he might decide that the appropriate redactions were so extensive that it would be pointless and pointless to release a version of the document now.
“I cannot say at this point that the partial redactions will be so significant that they result in meaningless disclosure, but I may ultimately come to this conclusion after hearing more from the government,” Reinhart wrote.
It’s unclear what, if anything, audiences will see on Thursday. The proposed redactions are to be filed under seal at noon, and there can be no assurance that any aspect of this filing will include a document intended for the public. Nor is the timeline for Reinhart to review the proposed deletions or engage in further discussions with the Justice Department.
But the intense national interest surrounding the investigation has drawn unusual attention to the progressive developments in the ongoing case, often fueled by the former president himself, who mounted a campaign to discredit the investigation, even then that it presented an increasingly acute legal threat.
A wide range of news organizations, as well as the conservative group Judicial Watch, asked the court to unseal the affidavit.
Trump has publicly stated that he wants all documents related to the research released, but he has not officially joined in the unsealing effort. His attorneys made a separate legal move on Monday to ask a third party to oversee the review of documents seized by the FBI in the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago. Another judge asked Trump’s attorneys to provide more details on their request by Friday.
The DOJ has previously said that if ordered by Reinhart, it would offer redactions so extensive that they would render the search affidavit meaningless to the public. However, the department is also under pressure to reveal more details based on the unprecedented decision to execute a search warrant at the home of a former president. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who has acknowledged directly approving the search, has already acknowledged the unusual urgency of the case, moving to unseal the search warrant itself, along with two redacted receipts for property taken from the Trump succession.
Adding to that pressure: Trump used the information vacuum to attack law enforcement and claim the search was a politically motivated attack on a potential White House candidate in 2024. He and his allies stepped up the fiery rhetoric surrounding the raid. Trump himself on Thursday morning described the search as “the greatest political attack in United States history,” in a post on his social media site.
But the department has resisted releasing parts of the underlying affidavit, warning it could scare away cooperative witnesses — especially amid a growing wave of violent threats against law enforcement and other people connected to the investigation – or reveal details about how the FBI gathered evidence in the case.
Making the document public could also set a precedent that would bolster efforts to obtain such documents in other high-profile and politically charged investigations. A Justice Department prosecutor told Reinhart the process would be a burden on the government to manage in a slew of cases, but the magistrate judge said in his order Monday that he was not concerned for the moment by other business.
“I need not address the question of whether, in another case, these concerns might justify denying public access; they might very well. Particularly given the intense public and historical interest generated by an unprecedented search of the residence of a former president, the government has yet to demonstrate that these administrative concerns are sufficient to warrant sealing.
Don’t expect a quick resolution. It’s unclear if Reinhart’s final decision will be the final say on who, if anything, will be released. The Justice Department and any entity seeking release of the affidavit could appeal its decision to a district court judge and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Reinhart suggested during a hearing last week that he would not release anything until potential appeals were resolved.