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Footnote in court filing shows why Judge Reinhart's ruling to consider releasing Trump affidavit not a win for transparency

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart appeared to give transparency a victory on Thursday when he ordered the Justice Department to prepare the search warrant affidavit in the case of former President Donald Trump for public release.

But even if the affidavit is released, what the American people see will probably be a highly redacted version that provides little transparency.

What did Reinhart say?

The government argued the search warrant affidavit should remain under government seal to protect the integrity of its ongoing investigation. But Reinhart disagreed, suggesting the public interest in the high-profile case may outweigh the DOJ's interests.

"I find that on the present record the Government has not met its burden of showing that the entire affidavit should remain sealed," Reinhart ordered.

The judge thus gave the government until next Thursday to file with his court "its proposed redactions along with a legal memorandum setting forth the justification for the proposed redactions."

But why does that not mean transparency?

Attorney Harmeet Dhillon explained on Fox News that she does not believe the affidavit will ever see the public eye.

"I think you are going to see virtually nothing after the redactions are presented to the judge," she said. "I think that the judge will take a look and see whether he agrees with the redactions or not, and then there will be some back and forth.

"Ultimately though, what we are seeing here is not some sort of outrageous change of behavior by the DOJ," she explained. "This is actually their existing way that they deal with requests like this. They typically stonewall, they typically hold all the cards. They never want to show a target or a defendant what they have. And they are very rarely held accountable, including by magistrate judges."

Dhillon added that especially in cases that involve national security — a category into which Trump's case falls — the search warrant affidavit is "restricted" to the defendant and their counsel.

In fact, the Justice Department argued the exact point Dhillon made, namely that a redacted affidavit will not provide the public any new information.

The government said in a court filing this week:

The government has carefully considered whether the affidavit can be released subject to redactions. For the reasons discussed below, the redactions necessary to mitigate harms to the integrity of the investigation would be so extensive as to render the remaining unsealed text devoid of meaningful content, and the release of such a redacted version would not serve any public interest.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference last week that the DOJ will speak through court filings.

But as constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley explained this week, repeated leaks from within the DOJ to media outlets are framing the public narrative of the case, which a new poll found is assailing public trust in the FBI.

The Rasmussen survey discovered that, after the FBI's Mar-a-Lago raid, a majority of Americans now view the FBI as "Biden's Gestapo."

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