Judge Bruce Reinhart on Monday released an order rejecting the Department of Justice’s argument that the affidavit used to justify a raid of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence should remain entirely sealed, moving the document one step closer to potentially being released.
The federal government now has until Thursday to propose redactions and make any other arguments as to why the document should not be made public.
“It is a foundational principle of American law that judicial proceedings should be open to the public,” said Reinhart, who also authorized the original search of the Mar-A-Lago property that was met with controversy and backlash.
The federal government argued that unsealing the affidavit would threaten its investigation into Trump. Reinhardt did acknowledge the legitimacy of that claim.
“There is a significant likelihood that unsealing the Affidavit would harm legitimate privacy interests by directly disclosing the identity of the affiant as well as providing evidence that could be used to identify witnesses,” he wrote. “As discussed above, these disclosures could then impede the ongoing investigation through obstruction of justice and witness intimidation or retaliation. This factor weighs in favor of sealing.”
Reinhardt said partially unsealing could be a good middle ground.
“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 wrote. “I therefore reject the Government’s argument that the present record justifies keeping the entire Affidavit under seal."
The federal government also argued that the redactions in the document to allow for its unsealing would make it useless to the public. Reinhardt said that may in fact be the case and asked the federal government to propose redactions this week.
“In its Response, the Government asked that I give it an opportunity to propose redactions if I declined to seal the entire Affidavit. I granted that request and gave the Government a deadline of noon on Thursday, August 25, 2022,” the order reads. “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.”