WASHINGTON DC. (CW44 News at 10 a.m. | CNN) — The Justice Department must release a redacted version of the Mar-a-Lago search warrant by noon Friday, a federal judge ruled. The affidavit explains why investigators believe there was probable cause that crimes had been committed. The order authorized the FBI to search former President Donald Trump’s home and private club earlier this month.
Earlier Thursday, the DOJ submitted its proposed redactions to U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who issued the public release order.
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Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said: “The United States has filed a brief under seal pursuant to the court’s August 22 order. The Justice Department respectfully declines further comment as the court considers the matter.”
Justice Department prosecutors have stressed that they need continued secrecy so as not to interrupt the ongoing criminal investigation — especially as they keep grand jury proceedings confidential and protect witnesses who have or could share information.
In his order, Reinhart said the Justice Department convinced him that parts of the affidavit should remain sealed because “disclosure would reveal (1) the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents and unindicted parties, (2) the strategy, direction, scope of the investigation, sources and methods and (3) jury information.”
He concluded that the DOJ had met “its burden of showing that its proposed redactions are narrowly tailored to serve the government’s legitimate interest in the integrity of the ongoing investigation and are the least burdensome alternative to sealing the entire statement.”
News outlets ask judge to close DOJ’s card on redactions
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Not long after the DOJ’s sealed filings on the redactions were submitted, a conglomeration of media companies, including CNN, filed a motion with the judge asking to unseal the Justice Department’s brief addressing the redactions.
The media said the announcement should be made public with any redactions necessary to protect the ongoing investigation. In addition, the media companies asked that the judge order that all documents that the Department of Justice files under seal in the transparency dispute must also be publicly filed with the relevant redactions.
“As this court has also recognized, there is little interest in maintaining confidentiality regarding facts about the investigation that the government has already publicly confirmed are accurate,” the news media’s request said.
At a minimum, the media organizations argued that “all parts of the Brief that recite these facts about the investigation, without further revealing those not yet publicly available – in addition to other parts that pose no threat to the investigation – should be unsealed.”
“If and when additional facts come to light and are confirmed to be accurate, or certain facts no longer pose a threat to the investigation for any other reason, there is also no justification for keeping them under seal,” the news outlet wrote. “Furthermore, all legal arguments in the government’s filing should be made public, even if some of the facts the government recounts remain under seal.”
This story has been updated with additional details.
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