WASHINGTON, Aug 25 (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department under a court order gave a federal judge on Thursday a redacted copy under seal of an affidavit outlining evidence that underpinned the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home for classified records he took with him after leaving office.
Anthony Coley, a Justice Department spokesperson, confirmed that the document was submitted as Florida-based U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart had ordered, declining further comment on the matter. Reinhart this month approved the Justice Department’s warrant that preceded the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach.
Reinhart is expected to review the department’s proposed redactions and decide whether to release the affidavit – a sworn statement outlining the evidence that gave it probable cause to seek a search warrant – and in what form. Even if it is unsealed, Reinhart has said the redactions could be so extensive they would “render the document devoid of content.”
The FBI in its court-approved search at Mar-a-Lago carried away more than 20 boxes containing 11 sets of classified government records, some of which were labeled “top secret.”
After Trump accused the FBI of political retribution against him, Attorney General Merrick Garland made the unusual decision to confirm the existence of the department’s investigation and asked a court to unseal large portions of the search warrant and property receipt listing the seized items.
The department declined to release the affidavit, prompting media companies to file a legal challenge to get it unsealed.
At a hearing last week, prosecutors asked Reinhart not to release the document, saying it could harm their ongoing investigation and chill witness cooperation as well as create security risks for FBI agents already facing heightened threats.
Reinhart has signaled he does not believe the entire document needs to be kept under wraps, and he asked the Justice Department to provide a copy with proposed redactions. Reinhart at the hearing said prosecutors would be given the opportunity to appeal if they do not agree with his proposed version.
Trump on social media has called for the document to be unsealed, though his lawyers have not weighed in on the matter.
He has filed a separate civil case asking another judge to halt the FBI’s review of the seized records pending the appointment of a special master to independently review them for materials that could be protected under executive privilege, a legal principle that lets a president shield some information.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has asked Trump’s legal team to file a more targeted request by Friday that better explains what relief the former president is seeking and why his request should not be sent instead to Reinhart.
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