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On Eve of Hearing, NYT, WaPo, and Others Ask Magistrate Judge to Unseal Affidavit of Probable Cause Behind Mar-a-Lago Search

Donald Trump appeared at a Republican campaign event on June 25, 2022 in Mendon, Illinois. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images.)

Donald Trump

Several media organizations, including CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, filed a motion on Wednesday in support of unsealing and “providing access to all search warrant records, including the affidavit of probable cause” behind the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.

The media coalition, which counts The Wall Street Journal, CBS, NBC, Miami Herald, and others amongst it, argues that the “public has a ‘clear and powerful’ interest in understanding the unprecedented investigation in former President Donald J. Trump’s handling of classified records.”

The motion comes two days after the Department of Justice opposed unsealing the affidavit, citing the need to protect an ongoing investigation and witnesses.

“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 government’s filing said. “In addition, information about witnesses is particularly sensitive given the high-profile nature of this matter and the risk that the revelation of witness identities would impact their willingness to cooperate with the investigation.”

The media coalition countered that the blanket refusal to release should not override the “presumption of access,” particularly in a case this high-profile and particularly because the affidavit could be released with limited but “necessary” redactions.

“The government, however, has taken the position that the affidavit of probable cause must remain under seal in its entirety, despite the presumption of access, with little explanation as to how release would harm the ongoing investigation, and even though many details of the investigation are already public. In the government’s view, the necessary redactions ‘would be so extensive as to render the document devoid of content that would meaningfully enhance the public’s understanding of these events,'” the media coalition’s motion said.

“This runs counter to the presumption of public access, which requires the disclosure of as much information as possible,” the motion continued. “The affidavit of probable cause should be released to the public, with only those redactions that are necessary to protect a compelling interest articulated by the government.”

Florida-based U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who signed the Trump search warrant, set a hearing on this issue for 1 p.m. on Thursday.

Read the media coalition’s motion for access to the Trump search warrant materials here:

[Image via Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.