The government had the burden of proving why some portions of the search warrant affidavit for Mar-a-Lago should be kept secret, according to U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who rejected the government’s case on Monday.
On August 8, the FBI conducted a raid at the Florida residence of former president Donald Trump, prompting calls for the DOJ to explain the unusual search.
The search warrant affidavit, that would explain why the warrant was issued, may be kept confidential by the government as long as “there is a strong governmental interest” and the restriction of access is “narrowly tailored to achieve that purpose,” according to Reinhart.
The DOJ claims that releasing the affidavit “would jeopardize the integrity of the ongoing criminal investigation,” and Reinhart says he is carefully considering the possibility that doing so “would hurt legitimate privacy interests” of the people involved in the raid and witnesses, as well as the possibility that the Secret Service uses the Mar-a-Lago property and releasing the affidavit could compromise security.
However, Reinhart said that “releasing the Affidavit will increase public awareness of historically important occurrences. The disclosure is favored by this factor.”
Reinhart stated that despite his belief that the DOJ has “met its responsibility of establishing good cause and a compelling interest that outweighs any public interest to unseal the entire contents of the Affidavit, he must decide if there is a less onerous alternative to unsealing the whole document.”
The DOJ’s claim that redacting sections of the affidavit would place a “undue burden on its resources” has not been supported, according to Reinhart.
“The Government has not yet shown proof that these administrative considerations are sufficient to warrant sealing, given the great public and historical interest in an unprecedented investigation of a former President’s house.”
Therefore, I disagree with the Government’s claim that the current record warrants keeping the whole affidavit sealed.
Reinhart agreed to the DOJ’s request to allow it to submit redaction proposals, with a deadline of August 25.
The New York Times and CNN, among other media sources, lobbied for the publication of the affidavit in the public interest, and Reinhart had said he was contemplating permitting a redacted version of the document to be disclosed.