A federal judge in Florida on Thursday ordered the U.S. Justice Department to file a redacted version of its affidavit in support of the FBI's search of former President Donald Trump's home to be released to the public by Friday at noon.
The Justice Department now has to decide whether to appeal, but even without an appeal the redactions agreed to Thursday suggest the public will see a limited amount of material on the affidavit.
Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart agreed to redact "identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents, and uncharged parties, the investigation's strategy, direction, scope, sources, and methods and grand jury information."
His order came just hours after a Justice Department spokesman confirmed prosecutors had submitted a sealed copy of its affidavit with proposed redactions to the judge.
Reinhart this month approved the Justice Department's warrant that preceded the FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach. The affidavit is a sworn statement outlining the evidence that gave the Justice Department probable cause to seek a search warrant.
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 called for the document to be unsealed, though his lawyers had 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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