The federal judge who approved the FBI’s raid on former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence has scheduled arguments for Thursday on the question of whether to release the search warrant affidavit laying out the specific rationale for the operation.
Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart announced Tuesday he’d set an in-person hearing in West Palm Beach — at which the Justice Department is expected to argue against disclosure of the document.
The conservative legal group Judicial Watch and nearly a dozen news organizations are seeking more information about the unprecedented raid on the 45th president.
The DOJ said Monday it opposes the release of the affidavit used to justify the Aug. 8 raid, but added that it was willing to release less descriptive documents.
South Florida US Attorney Juan Gonzalez and Justice Department counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt said in a court filing that publishing the document would reveal cooperating witnesses and violate required grand jury secrecy.
“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,” the prosecutors wrote.
The authorities also said, “The fact that this investigation implicates highly classified materials further underscores the need to protect the integrity of the investigation.”
Trump said in a statement late Monday that “in the interest of TRANSPARENCY, I call for the immediate release of the completely Unredacted Affidavit pertaining to this horrible and shocking BREAK-IN.”
Trump added, “Also, the Judge on this case should recuse!” — a reference to Reinhart, who donated to the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama in 2008 and onetime Trump rival Jeb Bush in 2015. He took the bench in 2018.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said last week that he personally green-lighted the raid. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the AG had “deliberated for weeks” over whether to give his approval, and now is considering whether the Justice Department should criminally charge Trump for allegedly mishandling records taken to Mar-a-Lago at the end of his presidency.
The Justice Department is investigating whether Trump broke three laws pertaining to the handling of government records — including the Espionage Act of 1917, according to court documents released Friday.
Trump claims he had already declassified any records stored at his residence and argued that some documents taken by FBI agents may be protected by attorney-client privilege.
The Justice Department also is investigating the ex-president’s actions to challenge his 2020 election loss, including by floating the selection of rival slates of electors from swing states.