After reviewing the unsealed version of the affidavit used to justify searching the 45th president’s home, Donald Trump’s lawyers shrugged. Nearly two-thirds of the 38-page affidavit was either completely blacked out (redacted) or mostly redacted, shedding little new light on FBI reasons.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the same Florida judge who authorized the raid and search of Mar-a-Lago, unsealed the warrant and returns. Initially, he left the underlying probable cause warrant under court seal but reversed himself after requests from various media outlets. He ordered that a redacted version of the affidavit be unsealed and available for public inspection. The Justice Department objected, saying making the details of their reasons for the search would jeopardize their investigation, possible informants and procedures.
Judge Reinhart allowed the DOJ to redact parts of the affidavit they considered vital to their investigation requiring continued secrecy. He gave the agency until noon Friday to either provide a redacted version or appeal his order. The Justice Department responded by supplying the heavily redacted document scorned by Trump’s legal team.
The only real value the former president’s legal team found in the unsealed probable cause affidavit was to add weight to their request to have a special master appointed to review seized documents before FBI investigators. Trump has asked a court to have a retired judge shield documents seized in the 10-hour search of his Florida home that contain material subject to either attorney-client or executive privilege.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is the Florida judge overseeing his request for a court-appointed special master. She asked Trump’s attorneys to provide more details to substantiate claims of executive or attorney-client privilege. The legal team responded by invoking former lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s connection with some documents. They also referred to the paucity of disclosure regarding the government’s basis for searching Trump’s home.
“The redacted affidavit underscores why this Motion should be granted, as it provides almost no information that would allow Movant to understand why the raid took place, or what was taken from his home,” Trump’s legal team argue in their revised motion filed Friday.
“The few lines that are unredacted raise more questions than answers,” his attorneys continued. “For instance, Paragraph three states, in pertinent part, as one of the bases for probable cause, that there ‘are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain[ing] at the premises.'”
Trump’s legal team scoffed at the publicly released reasons the DOJ considered probable cause. The thin veneer of factual basis for the unprecedented search raises doubt over whether Mar-a-Lago was raided under a pretense of a suspicion the presidential records were there.
The Presidential Records Act is not a criminally enforceable statute, so it is hard to understand how a violation of it could justify raiding a former president’s home.
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