The Florida judge who authorized the FBI raid at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home has instructed the Department of Justice to file a redacted version of the affidavit used to obtain the warrant.
At a hearing Thursday in West Palm Beach, Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart said that he is not prepared to grant the Justice Department's request that the affidavit remain sealed. He said he was inclined to agree with media requests to partially release the document and will make a final decision next week after the agency submits proposed redactions for the affidavit, according to reporters.
Reinhart scheduled Thursday afternoon's hearing at Paul G. Rogers Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in response to motions to unseal the FBI warrants and underlying affidavits.
A top official within the Justice Department argued for the affidavit to remain sealed. Jay Bratt, head of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence division, told the judge there is an active investigation against Trump that is still "in its early stages," Politico reported.
Bratt argued that releasing the FBI affidavit to the public could jeopardize "several witnesses" who informed the FBI about purported classified materials Trump allegedly took with him to Mar-a-Lago from the White House when he left office. He said the information in the affidavit was specific enough to identify the FBI's informants, according to Politico.
“This is not a precedent that we want to set,” Bratt told the judge.
Media organizations and the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch have requested that Reinhart unseal the underlying affidavit and other warrant materials connected to the raid on Trump's home. They argued there is extraordinary public interest in the release of the warrant and underlying affidavit.
The Biden administration has opposed these requests, arguing there is a "compelling, overriding interest in preserving the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation" against Trump. Bratt said that, were the documents to be released, the redactions would be so extensive as to render them meaningless.
“It really serves no purpose,” Bratt said. “It does not edify the public in any meaningful way.”
Though the government wants to keep the FBI affidavit sealed, Attorney General Merrick Garland asked the court to unseal the warrant last week, saying it was in the public interest. The unsealed warrant revealed that Trump is under investigation for violating the Espionage Act and the Presidential Records Act by allegedly keeping classified information at Mar-a-Lago and neglecting to return documents to the National Archives.
Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing, has demanded the "immediate release" of the "unredacted" affidavit and warrant and accused the Biden administration of weaponizing law enforcement against him for political reasons. The former president has also attacked the judge, calling on Reinhart to "recuse" himself because the judge previously recused himself from overseeing a lawsuit Trump filed against his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton in March.
Pro-Trump protesters gathered outside the courthouse during Thursday's hearing to voice their support for the former president.
Reinhart has received death threats from people upset with his decision to grant the FBI's warrant request to search Mar-a-Lago. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have warned of an increase in threats against federal law enforcement since the raid at Trump's home. On Tuesday, a Pennsylvania man was arrested and charged with making violent threats against FBI agents online. Days earlier, an Ohio man was killed in a shootout with police after shooting a nail gun into the FBI Cincinnati headquarters and fleeing the scene.