Judge Bruce Reinhart in a filing on Monday morning announced that formally he rejects “the Government’s argument that the present record justifies keeping the entire Affidavit under seal.”
“The Government argues that even requiring it to redact portions of the Affidavit that could not reveal agent identities or investigative sources and methods imposes an undue burden on its resources and sets a precedent that could be disruptive and burdensome in future cases,” Reinhart wrote. “I do not need to reach the question of whether, in some other case, these concerns could justify denying public access; they very well might.”
“Particularly given the intense public and historical interest in an unprecedented search of a former President’s residence, the Government has not yet shown that these administrative concerns are sufficient to justify sealing,” he added.
This is a stinging rebuke for a Biden administration that was relying on the Florida judge, who is himself an Obama donor, to provide the Department of Justice with political cover for the FBI’s “unprecedented” raid on the former president. If a law enforcement action is “unprecedented,” there is a higher probability that it was unlawful from a judicial point-of-view.
It remains to be seen how much of the search warrant affidavit will be redacted, as the judge previously gave the Department of Justice until Thursday to submit its advised redactions for the document out of argued national security concerns.
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“Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that by the deadline, the Government shall file under seal a submission addressing possible redactions and providing any additional evidence or legal argument that the Government believes relevant to the pending Motions to Unseal,” the motion stated.
Donald Trump earlier called for the “completely unredacted” affidavit that purportedly justified the FBI raid.
“There is no way to justify the unannounced RAID of Mar-a-Lago, the home of the 45th President of the United States (who got more votes, by far, than any sitting President in the history of our Country!), by a very large number of gun-toting FBI Agents, and the Department of ‘Justice,’” Trump wrote.
“In the interest of TRANSPARENCY, I call for the immediate release of the completely Unredacted Affidavit pertaining to this horrible and shocking BREAK-IN,” Trump added.
The court hearing flies in the face of the Department of Justice’s wishes that the judge magistrate would simply consent to the attorney general’s desire to keep the search warrant affidavit secret.
“The Justice Department intends to unseal additional documents connected to the FBI search at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate but is urging a federal court to maintain the secrecy of the sworn affidavit describing the basis for the search,” Politico’s Kyle Cheney reported.
“The DOJ is particularly concerned that the release of details from the affidavit might harm ongoing efforts to interview witnesses, given the threats to federal agents in wake of the Mar-a-Lago search,” the report claimed.
“If disclosed, the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course, in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps,” U.S. Attorney Juan Gonzalez and Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt said in a filing urging the continued secrecy of the affidavit.
“The fact that this investigation implicates highly classified materials further underscores the need to protect the integrity of the investigation and exacerbates the potential for harm if information is disclosed to the public prematurely or improperly,” the DOJ officials wrote.
The FBI agents, however, swept up “any government and/or Presidential Records created between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021.” This included the president’s passports, as the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman noted.
“Wow! In the raid by the FBI of Mar-a-Lago, they stole my three Passports (one expired), along with everything else,” Trump recently said on Truth Social. “This is an assault on a political opponent at a level never seen before in our Country. Third World!”
Former Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Donald Trump, Kash Patel, laid bare the FBI’s invasive and unnecessary raid of the former president at Mar-a-Lago on August 8.
“As a former Deputy Director of National Intelligence, I know how this system works,” Patel responded. “The president is the sole and universal arbiter and classification authority in the United States of America. If he says a document is declassified, or a set of them, that is it, there is no written material required. That is a fiction being created by the fake news and the radical left.”
“In October of 2020, President Trump put out for the world to see a sweeping declassification order and he did it via social media,” Patel points out. “Every single Russiagate doc, every single Hillarygate doc, every one, those are his words. That is the precedent that the president of the United States is allowed to operate under. And then in December and January, on the way out, I witnessed him declassify whole sets of documents. So it is not incumbent upon President Trump and his lawyers and he as a target of this investigation to show that he did, in fact, declassify them. It’s up to the government who has the burden of proof, who are trying to deprive a man of his liberty, to show that no such order was, in fact, given.”
The FBI has some explaining to do about why it carried out this unnecessary and “unprecedented” raid on a former president. And it looks like it has until Thursday to explain itself to the judge.
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.