Mar-a-Lago Raid Hearing: “Government has not met its burden of showing that the entire affidavit should remain sealed”
Requires Feds To Propose Specific Redactions: “I find that on the present record the Government has not met its burden of showing that the entire affidavit should remain sealed.”
The Magistrate Judge’s Order is now posted (emphasis added):
THIS CAUSE is before the Court on motions to unseal the search warrant materials, including the probable cause affidavit, that were filed by the Media-Intervenors. ECF Nos. 4, 6, 9, 20, 22, 23, 30-33. Today I held a hearing on the motions. As I ruled from the bench at the conclusion of the hearing, I find that on the present record the Government has not met its burden of showing that the entire affidavit should remain sealed. It is ORDERED that by noon EST onThursday, August 25, 2022, the Government shall file under seal its proposed redactions along with a legal memorandum setting forth the justification for the proposed redactions.
You can view the Motion to Seal and Sealing Order that also were unsealed today here.
More details on the hearing from various sources. There’s no reason there couldn’t at least have been audio, which even the supreme court releases, so we’re stuck with what others report.
A top Justice Department official said Thursday the investigation into the handling of classified records housed at former President Donald Trump’s private residence is “in its early stages,” suggesting a long road ahead for the explosive probe.
“This investigation is open,” said Jay Bratt, the head of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence division….
Bratt argued that releasing the underlying FBI affidavit justifying the search could jeopardize “several witnesses” whose accounts of Trump’s actions were specific enough that the sources for them might be easily identified.
“This is not a precedent that we want to set,” Bratt indicated.
“This is a volatile situation with respect to this particular search across the political spectrum but certainly on one side in particular,” Mr. Bratt said. “There is a real concern not just for the safety of these witnesses but to chill other witnesses who may come forward and cooperate.”
The Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart, who approved the search warrant on Mar-a-Lago, held a hearing today on the motion by Judicial Watch, joined by numerous media outlets, to unseal the Affidavit used to obtain the warrant. Unfortunately, it was not live-streamed, not even audio available, so we are left with mainstream media reports of what happened.
In case you have been living under a rock, here are some background posts:
- Trump: FBI Raided Mar-a-Lago – “These Are Dark Times For Our Nation”
- Court Unseals Trump Search Warrant and Inventory of Items Seized
- FBI Broadly Rummaged Through Trump’s Files, Supporting Theory This Is Not Just About “Classified” Documents
- Feds Oppose Unsealing Affidavit Used To Obtain Mar-a-Lago Search Warrant
- Media To Judge: Unseal Mar-a-Lago Raid Affidavit Since The Feds Already Leaked So Much To Us
Reports on Court hearing:
Reinhardt has ordered other documents related to the FBI raid to be unsealed today, including the application for the warrant, the motion to seal, and the cover sheet.
Reinhart has given the government one week to submit proposed redactions under seal by noon on August 25th. Judge Reinhart will review those redactions and then decide how he wants to proceed, if he wants to make his own redactions instead.
He reminded all that if the government or media object to his redactions, which will also be under seal, they can appeal his ruling.
Jay Bratt, a top lawyer in the Department of Justice’s national security division, is arguing for the government at the hearing on requests by several news outlets — including CNN — to unseal more materials filed by the Justice Department related to the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last week.
Bratt told the federal judge that letting the public read the affidavit would “provide a roadmap to the investigation,” and would even indicate the next steps in the probe.
He also described the affidavit as detailed and lengthy.
While acknowledging that there is a public interest in transparency, Bratt said that there was “another public interest” in criminal investigations being able to go forward unimpeded.
Bratt’s statements in court have so far emphasized that this is an active, ongoing criminal investigation, with robust witness interview work being done and grand jury activity.
The Justice Department argued in court on Thursday that the probable cause affidavit used to get a warrant to search former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence described how prosecutors might find “evidence of obstruction” on the grounds of the Florida property — a possible crime that the search warrant itself revealed was under investigation…. Bratt also said that the affidavit contained “substantial grand jury information.”
US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart set in motion on Thursday the possible public release of a heavily redacted version of the affidavit for the search at Mar-a-Lago.
The judge plans to hear more from the Justice Department by next week about how extensively investigators want to keep confidential the document that describes their investigative steps and methods leading to the need for the search.
Reinhart said he wasn’t convinced yet that the entire affidavit should remain undisclosed to the public.
Prosecutors will have the opportunity to propose redactions and explain why each piece of information needs to be kept from the public eye, Reinhart said. Those proposals will be due next Thursday.
Reinhart said he then may have additional confidential discussions with the Justice Department before making his decisions on transparency.
This post was updated multiple times, including the headlinesDONATE
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