A US magistrate court began disclosing details from the affidavit the Justice Department used to get a search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s Florida home.
During a hearing in West Palm Beach, Judge Bruce Reinhart said he planned to unseal portions of the affidavit.
His announcement came as the Justice Department revealed new, if unclear, facts regarding the probe into the Trump White House’s handling of secret documents.
Judge Outlines Affidavit Release Process
Reinhart may disclose a heavily redacted version of the Mar-a-Lago search affidavit on Thursday. The judge will hear from the Justice Department by next Thursday on how much of an investigative document they want to keep secret.
Reinhart isn’t certain the affidavit should be kept secret.
Reinhart said that based on the current record, “portions” of the affidavit could be disclosed.
Prosecutors will be able to suggest redactions and explain why Reinhart added them. The deadline is August 25, 12:00 ET.
Reinhart may have more confidential talks with the Justice Department before deciding on transparency.
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An Unsealed Document Raises Trump’s Criminal Profile
A document unsealed Thursday offers specifics about the offenses the Justice Department is investigating, including “willful retention of national defense material,” legal experts tell CNN.
Previously, search warrants solely included federal statutes, including the Espionage Act. The leaked records show that Trump and others around him face legal jeopardy, including for obstruction of justice.
The clause on “willful retention” could point to the former President, who was authorized to keep national defense materials while in office but not at his private club and villa in Palm Beach, Florida.
The judge unsealed the document Thursday as part of the warrant application.
This Investigation Has Had Multiple Warnings Concerning Chilling Witnesses
Bratt warned that publicizing the affidavit could chill witnesses in this and future investigations. However, some witnesses are already part of the documents inquiry. Some witnesses have precise information that would identify their identities, Bratt added.
Bratt also voiced concerns about the FBI’s dangers since word of the Mar-a-Lago search leaked, including the recent standoff at a Cincinnati FBI field office and “amateur sleuths” online.
He warned the judge that if any further records are produced, the DOJ will redact even agent background information.
Trump’s Lawyers Didn’t Oppose Disclosing The Materials In Court
Trump’s attorney was at the court, but she didn’t speak or weigh in. Christina Bobb told reporters she was just observing.
Trump isn’t involved in the warrant paperwork controversy. When the DOJ asked the Court to unseal the warrant and search receipt, the judge told the Department to consult with Trump and tell the court if he objected the publication.
Before Thursday’s hearing, the judge gave parties until 9 a.m. ET to respond to DOJ documents. Notably, the Trump team did not want to formally get involved in the debate by then, despite Trump and his friends wanting the warrant documents revealed outside of court.
Thursday, Reinhart heard some of Bobb’s public comments regarding the search. Charles Tobin, arguing for the affidavit’s publication for media sites including CNN, noted that Bobb had already disclosed information about an FBI subpoena of Mar-a-Lago surveillance film and that DOJ officials visited Mar-a-Lago in June.