On Mar-a-Lago Affidavit, Judge Sees a Middle Ground

He asks Justice Department to suggest redactions before release
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2022 3:20 PM CDT
On Mar-a-Lago Affidavit, Judge Sees a Middle Ground
Documents related to the search warrant for former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., are photographed Thursday.   (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

With the Justice Department asking a judge to keep the affidavit behind the search of Mar-a-Lago sealed and news organizations seeking its release, a federal judge signaled Thursday that he's thinking of something in between. In a hearing in Florida, federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart asked the government to suggest redactions in the document that would allow its release without causing harm to the investigation of former President Trump's handling of classified documents, the Washington Post reports. Reinhart said the public should be provided as "much information" as possible about the case, while acknowledging that heavy redactions could turn the document into "meaningless gibberish," per the New York Times.

"Transparency serves the public interest in understanding and accepting the results," a lawyer for the outlets told the judge, adding, "You can't trust what you cannot see." A Justice Department official listed potential damage, saying a release of even parts of the document could reveal sensitive grand jury information, telegraph next steps in the investigation, and have a chilling effect on potential witnesses. The official also cited concern for the safety of witnesses. The judge asked for the redaction proposals to be in by next Thursday, when he expects to make his decision.

A Trump lawyer attended the hearing but offered no motion. The former president's legal team is undecided on whether a release would be beneficial to his case, per the Post. Affidavits are submitted to a judge as part of the case for being issued a search warrant. They usually say why law enforcement officials suspect there's evidence at a certain location, as well as other information about their investigation, and are rarely unsealed before charges are filed, per the Times. Reinhart already has unsealed the warrant and a list of items taken from Trump's home. The Post and Times are among the outlets seeking the release. (More Donald Trump stories.)

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