Judge unseals redacted affidavit used to justify Trump search warrant

Author: Caroline Linton / CBS News
Published: Updated:
FILE – An aerial view of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate Aug. 10, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. A judge on Aug. 25 ordered the Justice Department to make public a redacted version of the affidavit it relied on when federal agents searched the Florida estate of former President Donald Trump to look for classified documents.(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

A federal judge has unsealed a redacted version of the affidavit that was used to justify the search warrant executed earlier this month at former President Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago.

Last week, federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the Justice Department to provide him with proposed redactions to the affidavit — which likely includes witness statements and specific allegations — after media organizations including CBS News pushed for its public release. Reinhart said Thursday that the government had met its obligations to justify the redactions.

The FBI searched Trump’s primary residence at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 as part of an investigation into his handling of presidential records since leaving office. On Aug. 12, the search warrant was unsealed, along with an inventory of materials seized, which listed 11 sets of classified documents.

The Mar-a-Lago search warrant was approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland and then by Reinhart on Aug. 5. Reinhart, a magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, reviewed the affidavit and its references to evidence from investigations, saying last week that “all the information that the court relied upon is in the affidavit.”

The Justice Department had argued that the affidavit should remain sealed, citing the need to “protect the integrity of an ongoing law enforcement investigation that implicates national security.” Investigative methods and the identities of FBI agents and witnesses are at stake, prosecutors told the judge, and said releasing the affidavit risked chilling future cooperation.

The media organizations had argued that unsealing at least portions of the affidavit is necessary to help the public understand the Justice Department’s reasons for the search.

Earlier this week, Trump and his attorneys filed a motion before a different judge for the appointment of a special master to be named to review the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago. They argued a special master — a court-appointed monitor — is necessary to protect the former president’s constitutional rights.

Trump’s attorneys also asked that the Justice Department provide them with a more detailed accounting of what the FBI took from his Florida resort and return any property not within the scope of the search warrant.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) received 15 boxes of presidential materials from Mar-a-Lago in January. The NARA identified over 100 documents with classification markings — including some identified as Top Secret and protected by sensitive Special Access Programs — following its initial review of those boxes, according to a letter sent in May by the Archives’ acting archivist to an attorney for the former president.

— This is a developing story.

Robert Legare contributed to this report.

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