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Judge poised to release parts of key Trump FBI raid document

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from Emily Crane | New York Post.

A Florida federal judge ruled Thursday that portions of the affidavit underpinning the FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate would likely be made public – despite objections from the Justice Department.

West Palm Beach Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart — who signed off on the search of the 45th president’s home — said at the conclusion of the 77-minute hearing that “I believe — at least on my initial careful review of the affidavit — that there are portions that could be presumptively unsealed.”

Reinhart gave federal prosecutors until noon on Aug. 25 to submit a list of requested redactions and added that a partially blacked-out version would likely be released at some point in the future. The judge said the government will be given an opportunity to appeal if it doesn’t agree with his proposed redactions.

A top Justice Department official had argued earlier that the affidavit should remain sealed, claiming it would “provide a roadmap to the investigation” and allow “amateur sleuths on the internet” to identify key witnesses if made public.

DOJ counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt acknowledged there was high interest in the government’s justification for the Aug. 8 raid.

However, he added, the political temperature in the country is currently too hot for the affidavit to be revealed.

“This is a volatile situation with respect to this search across the political spectrum — but on one side in particular,” Bratt told the judge. “The government is very concerned about the safety of the witnesses in these cases and the impact of all the attention on these witnesses on other witnesses.”

The Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and CNN are among the outlets that have argued the document’s release would help the public determine if there was a legitimate reason behind the FBI’s raid.

Trump and his allies have argued the raid was part of a Biden administration vendetta against the former president and Trump himself has called for the “immediate release” of the affidavit.

“The public interest could not be greater into the transparency of this proceeding,” Charles Tobin, an attorney representing several media outlets, told the judge. “You cannot trust what you cannot see.”

Tobin argued “maximum transparency” was imperative in this case, and called the Mar-a-Lago raid “one of the most significant law enforcement events in the nation’s history.”

The outlets asked for a redacted version of the affidavit to be public. However, Bratt had argued earlier that so much of the document’s contents would need to be concealed that “there would be nothing of substance that would remain.”

Reinhart appeared to agree, suggesting near the end of the hearing that what is left after the redactions are finalized may be of little interest.

The judge also approved the release of three minor documents related to the raid – the cover sheets for the initial search warrant application, the government’s motion to seal the warrant and Reinhart’s own sealing order.

Federal agents seized 27 boxes from Trump’s palatial estate, including 11 sets of classified documents that were labeled top secret, secret, or confidential, according to an inventory list made public by Reinhart on Aug. 12.

Reinhart had approved the search warrant as part of a federal probe into whether Trump illegally took classified material with him to Mar-a-Lago when he left the White House.

The search warrant authorized the FBI to seize “all physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed” in violation of three federal laws — including the Espionage Act of 1917.

Trump and his attorneys have both claimed he used his power to declassify the now-seized material before leaving the White House.

One member of the 45th president’s legal team, Christina Bobb — who was present when federal agents executed the search warrant — was in court Thursday, but did not take part in oral arguments.