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Judge May Unveil Affidavit    08/19 06:43

   

   WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- A federal judge on Thursday ordered the 
Justice Department to put forward proposed redactions as he committed to making 
public at least part of the affidavit supporting the search warrant for former 
President Donald Trump's estate in Florida.

   U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart said that under the law, it is the 
government's burden to show why a redacted version should not be released and 
prosecutors' arguments Thursday failed to persuade him. He gave them a week to 
submit a copy of the affidavit proposing the information it wants to keep 
secret after the FBI seized classified and top-secret information during a 
search at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate last week.

   The hearing was convened after several news organizations, including The 
Associated Press, sought to unseal additional records tied to last week's 
search, including the affidavit. It is likely to contain key details about the 
Justice Department's investigation examining whether Trump retained and 
mishandled classified and sensitive government records.

   The Justice Department has adamantly opposed making any portion of the 
affidavit public, arguing that doing so would compromise its ongoing 
investigation, would expose the identities of witnesses and could prevent 
others from coming forward and cooperating with the government.

   The attorneys for the news organizations, however, argued that the 
unprecedented nature of the Justice Department's investigation warrants public 
disclosure.

   "You can't trust what you can't see," said Chuck Tobin, a lawyer 
representing the AP and several other news outlets.

   In addition to ordering the redactions, the judge agreed to make public 
other documents, including the warrant's cover sheet, the Justice Department's 
motion to seal the documents and the judge's order requiring them to be sealed.

   Those documents showed the FBI was specifically investigating the "willful 
retention of national defense information," the concealment or removal of 
government records and obstruction of a federal investigation.

   Jay Bratt, a top Justice Department national security prosecutor, had argued 
that the affidavit should remain hidden from the public. Unsealing it, he said, 
would provide a "road map" of the investigation -- which is in its "early 
stages" -- and expose the next steps to be taken by federal agents and 
prosecutors.

   He argued it was in the public interest for the investigation, including 
interviews of witnesses, to go forward unhindered.

   As the hearing kicked off, a small caravan of vehicles with Trump flags 
drove past the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach, Florida. An attorney for 
Trump, Christina Bobb, was in the courthouse Thursday but said she was only 
there to observe the court proceeding.

   Bratt argued in court that even a redacted version of the document could 
reveal investigative steps or create the ability for sleuths or those being 
eyed in the investigation to identify witnesses in the case. He also contended 
that the Justice Department had already gone to rare lengths to bring 
transparency, including making a request for the court to unseal the warrant 
and property receipt, which were made public last week.

   "There is heightened interest," he conceded. "This is likely an 
unprecedented situation."

   Trump, in a Truth Social post last week, called for the release of the 
unredacted affidavit in the interest of transparency.

   Reinhart gave the government until next Thursday to submit its version with 
the proposed redactions along with written arguments for each, going line by 
line. He said he would then review the proposal and make his own proposed 
redactions and then may meet with government lawyers to give them a final 
argument for why specific information should be withheld.

   Justice Department attorneys have argued in court filings that the 
investigation into Trump's handling of "highly classified material" is ongoing 
and that the document contains sensitive information about witnesses.

   A recent filing by Bratt and Juan Antonio Gonzalez, the U.S. attorney in 
Miami, says making the affidavit public would "cause significant and 
irreparable damage to this ongoing criminal investigation."

   "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," they wrote.

   FBI agents searched Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate on Aug. 8, removing 11 sets of 
classified documents, with some not only marked top secret but also "sensitive 
compartmented information," according to a receipt of what was taken that was 
released Friday. That is a special category meant to protect the nation's most 
important secrets that if revealed publicly could cause "exceptionally grave" 
damage to U.S. interests. The court records did not provide specific details 
about information the documents might contain.

 
 
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