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U.S. judge says he leans toward releasing some evidence for Trump search

World Aug 18, 2022 09:17PM ET
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3/3 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Donald Trump departs Trump Tower two days after FBI agents searched his Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach home, in New York City, New york, U.S., August 10, 2022. REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado/File Photo 2/3

By Brian Ellsworth and Sarah N. Lynch

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) -A U.S. judge on Thursday said he is leaning toward releasing some of the evidence presented by the U.S. Justice Department to justify its search of Donald Trump's Florida home last week, in a case pitting news organizations against federal prosecutors.

Despite objections by the Justice Department, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart said he believes "there are portions of the affidavit that could be unsealed," referring to the sworn statement laying out the evidence for why there was probable cause to search Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.

He ordered the Justice Department to file a redacted version of the affidavit under seal by noon next Thursday, but said prosecutors will be given the opportunity to appeal if they don't agree with his proposed version.

Reinhart's order seemed to mark a victory for news outlets, who appeared in federal court in West Palm Beach on Thursday to persuade the judge that the public interest in the affidavit outweighs the benefits of keeping it sealed.

The search marked a significant escalation in one of the many federal and state investigations Trump is facing from his time in office and in private business. The Republican former president has suggested he might run for the White House again in 2024, but has not made any commitment.

The Justice Department opposes the release of the Mar-a-Lago affidavit, even in redacted form.

Jay Bratt, the head of the department's counterintelligence and export control section, told the judge on Thursday that releasing the affidavit is not in the public interest because it could harm the ongoing probe, which he described as still being in the "early" stages and involving highly sensitive grand jury material.

"There is another public interest at stake and that is the public interest that criminal investigations are able to go forward unimpeded," he said.

The search, which was approved by Reinhart on Aug. 5, is part of a federal investigation into whether Trump illegally removed documents when he left office in January 2021 after losing the presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.

The Justice Department is investigating violations of three laws, including a provision in the Espionage Act that prohibits the possession of national defense information and another statute that makes it a crime to knowingly destroy, conceal or falsify records with the intent to obstruct an investigation.

Attorneys for several media outlets including The New York Times, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, ABC News and NBC News told Reinhart on Thursday that the public's right to know and the historic significance of the search outweigh any arguments to keep the records sealed.

"The public could not have a more compelling interest in ensuring maximum transparency over this event," said Charles Tobin, one of the attorneys arguing for the media companies.

Trump has vocally made statements on social media calling on

the court to unseal the unredacted version.

However, his attorneys have not filed any such requests with the court seeking to unseal the records, which are likely to contain damaging information about Trump.

Christina Bobb, the Trump attorney who signed the warrant materials on the day of the Aug. 8 search, appeared in the courtroom on Thursday to watch the proceedings.

She left without making any statements to reporters.

The former president has repeatedly claimed the search was politically motivated, and his son Eric Trump told Fox News that his father intends to release surveillance tape showing the FBI searching Mar-a-Lago "at the right time."

Trump has also tried to defend his actions, saying without providing evidence that he had a standing order to declassify the documents in question.

However, none of the three laws cited by the Justice Department in the search warrant require a showing that the documents were in fact classified.

Threats directed at FBI agents have increased since the raid.

In Ohio last week, police shot an armed man dead after he tried to breach an FBI building. A second man in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, has since been charged with making threats against FBI agents.

Bratt said on Thursday that the two agents whose names appeared on a leaked copy of the unredacted warrant have also since received threats.

In addition, he said, the department "is very concerned about the safety of the witnesses in the case."

Reinhart has also faced a barrage of criticism from Trump's supporters, who have publicly assailed his decision to approve the search warrant.

Trump's rhetoric against the FBI has caught on with Republican voters, 54% of whom say federal law enforcement officials behaved irresponsibly in the case, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found this week.

The FBI seized boxes containing 11 sets of classified materials at Mar-a-Lago, some of which were labeled "top secret" - the highest level of classification reserved for the most closely held U.S. national security information.

Such documents usually are typically kept in special government facilities because disclosure could cause grave damage to national security.

Reinhart on Thursday also granted a request to unseal procedural records tied to the warrant, including the cover sheet and the government’s motion to seal the warrant. The cover sheet said the Justice Department is investigating the “willful” retention of national defense information, as well as the concealment or removal of government records and the obstruction of a federal investigation.

U.S. judge says he leans toward releasing some evidence for Trump search
 

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Comments (30)
gab nea
gab nea Aug 21, 2022 8:14AM ET
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omg he just lied again about having a standing declassification order! have you had enough chaos yet?
gab nea
gab nea Aug 20, 2022 8:53AM ET
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no need to convince us of anymore crimes committed! just lock the whole crime gang!
gab nea
gab nea Aug 20, 2022 8:41AM ET
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with the orange traitor having stolen so many classified documents: no one ever saw him reading anything, nevermind taking papers home. roflmao! who saw, read and packed those boxes? who went through them and returned a bunch earlier? who lied and why, they said there none left? who saw them at his exile club with so many spies? did he send any to lavrov already? who else is conspiring with him and his crime family? lock him up!
gab nea
gab nea Aug 19, 2022 6:39AM ET
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the trump Republican party has lost it's way, there is no coming back from being the K K K party! oh with new names like patriot boys! lmao... time for a new sane other party than Republicans!
First Last
First Last Aug 19, 2022 6:39AM ET
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The Dixiecrats didn't just join the Republicans, they've been leading the party.
jason xx
jason xx Aug 19, 2022 5:49AM ET
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I hope the traitor trump c u cks keep going after the FBI that's one good way to get rid of them.
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Aug 18, 2022 11:43PM ET
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time to lock up the entire trump crime family and their collaborators
Jeff Oath
Jeff Oath Aug 18, 2022 10:17PM ET
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Im sure the 87k new armed IRS agents included in the Inflation Reduction Act will make it possible to make any dissenters reveal all financial information. Great days ahead
John Healy
John Healy Aug 18, 2022 10:17PM ET
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IRS agents aren’t armed; revenue officers are. Totally different function.
rasheed abdul
rasheed abdul Aug 18, 2022 10:17PM ET
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If the goal is fear then you all missed the mark.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Aug 18, 2022 10:17PM ET
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https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/irs-87000-new-agents/
First Last
First Last Aug 18, 2022 10:17PM ET
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Brad Albright   So many id i ots parroting their dear leaders' lies, too stupid to do elementary fact-check.
ZS Beck
ZS Beck Aug 18, 2022 9:25PM ET
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Release his tax return. It's unrealistic for the US state's former president can't get ordered to release an f tax return, but ordinary resident gets harassed by the IRS over 5$
Forex Harbingers
ForexHarbingers Aug 18, 2022 9:25PM ET
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Im sure the 87k new armed IRS agents included in the Inflation Reduction Act will make it possible to make any dissenters reveal all financial information. Great days ahead
Adrian White
Adrian White Aug 18, 2022 9:25PM ET
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Forex, you clearly haven't read the act. There are no new "armed" IRS agents. That's just fear-mongering from the usual Retrumplicans. Most of the new staff will be auditors of high net worth returns, or filling Customer Service positions and processing positions.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Aug 18, 2022 9:25PM ET
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Where are Obama's and Biden's tax returns? On the internet, you know-nothing kook.
gab nea
gab nea Aug 18, 2022 9:09PM ET
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Liz scares trump! she lives in his brain! she threatens his manhood! go get him fed! lock him up!
gab nea
gab nea Aug 18, 2022 9:03PM ET
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so many crimes for one family, like a crime syndicate! RICO?
 
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