A federal judge has ordered the affidavit that was used to justify the search warrant on former President Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago be unsealed by noon ET on Friday with the government’s redactions.
The judge said the government had met its obligations to justify the redactions. Several media organizations, including CBS News, have pushed for the affidavit’s release. Trump has also called publicly for the affidavit to be released, although his lawyers have not entered court proceedings as interested parties.
The Justice Department submitted its redacted version to the court. The affidavit likely contains more information about government investigators’ concerns regarding the documents allegedly held at Mar-a-Lago.
The FBI searched Trump’s primary residence at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 as part of an investigation into his handling of presidential records since leaving office. On Aug. 12, the search warrant was unsealed, along with an inventory of materials seized, which included 11 sets of classified documents.
Earlier this week, Trump and his attorneys filed a motion before a different judge for a special master to be named to review the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago. They argued the special master – a court-appointed monitor – is necessary to protect the former president’s constitutional rights.
Trump’s attorneys also asked that the Justice Department provide them with a more detailed accounting of what the FBI took from his Florida resort and return any property not within the scope of the search warrant.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) received 15 boxes of presidential materials from Mar-a-Lago in January. The NARA identified over 100 documents with classification markings — including some identified as Top Secret and protected by sensitive Special Access Programs — following its initial review of those boxes, according to a letter sent in May by the Archives’ acting archivist to an attorney for the former president.
The National Archives asked the Justice Department to look into the matter.
A U.S. official told CBS News earlier this week that investigators are looking closely at video evidence that they have obtained that showed people accessing the area of Trump’s residence where he kept papers – including classified materials.
The Mar-a-Lago search warrant was approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland and then by federal magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart on Aug. 5. Reinhart reviewed the affidavit and its references to evidence from investigations, saying last week that “all the information that the court relied upon is in the affidavit.”
The Justice Department has argued that the affidavit needs to remain sealed, citing the need to “protect the integrity of an ongoing law enforcement investigation that implicates national security.” Investigative methods and the identities of FBI agents and witnesses are at stake, prosecutors told the judge, and said releasing the affidavit risks chilling future cooperation.
The media organizations had argued that unsealing at least portions of the affidavit is necessary to help the public understand the Justice Department’s reasons for the search.