The justice department is expected to file on Friday a redacted version of the affidavit justifying the search warrant used to seize sensitive government documents from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida earlier this month, after being ordered to do so by a federal judge.
The order from judge Bruce Reinhart, who approved the warrant and is overseeing the case from West Palm Beach, Florida, instructed the justice department to submit the redacted affidavit that he had reviewed – itself previously under seal – in the public docket before noon.
In an earlier two-page ruling, the judge said the justice department’s proposed redactions were narrowly tailored to keep secret grand jury material, the identities of uncharged individuals and sources and methods used in the criminal investigation – and the remainder could become public.
“The government has 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 onerous alternative to sealing the entire Affidavit,” Reinhart wrote.
The affidavit contains key information – notably the probable cause – about the justice department’s investigation into the unauthorized retention of government secrets at Mar-a-Lago, which, according to the warrant, could constitute violations of at least three criminal statutes.
The imminent partial release of the affidavit is set to prove a major juncture in the developing investigation, being led by the justice department’s national security division, and the attorney general, Merrick Garland, who personally approved the warrant after days of deliberations.
Exactly how much of the affidavit will be redacted was not clear, but they are expected to be extensive. The justice department had originally opposed unsealing the affidavit at all, and only filed a redacted version after being forced by Reinhart last week.
But depending on how the affidavit was produced, several former US attorneys said, it could also contain elements that are not directly related to the investigation, such as descriptions of potential crimes that the justice department suspected were being committed at Mar-a-Lago.
The former president has indicated on his social media website that he supports unsealing the affidavit but his lawyers never filed a formal motion to that effect, and instead left the effort to a coalition of media outlets that pushed to have the affidavit become public.
Trump has since filed a separate motion to have a so-called special master appointed to determine what seized materials prosecutors can use as evidence in the investigation, and to force the justice department to provide a more detailed list of what was retrieved by the FBI.