The Justice Department on Friday finally released a heavily blacked-out affidavit justifying the unprecedented FBI raid on former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate this month.
The eagerly awaited release came after the department had tried to fight it, insisting it comprised key details that were “highly likely to compromise future investigative steps” into whether the 45th president illegally kept classified information at Mar-a-Lago.
However, federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart on Thursday ordered the release by noon Friday in an acknowledgment of the extraordinary public interest in the historic investigation.
Still, Reinhart — who had approved the initial raid warrant — allowed for extensive redactions, which leave many key questions unanswered.
“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 insisted in his ruling.
The blacked-out sections hide many key unanswered questions about the Aug. 8 raid, during which officials say 11 sets of classified documents, including information marked at the top secret level, were retrieved.
That includes hiding the identities of witnesses and key details about the “strategy, direction, scope, sources and methods” of the investigation that sparked a huge political firestorm.
Trump, 76, had instead repeatedly demanded the full, unredacted document be released.
On Thursday, he insisted he was “as innocent as a person can be.”
The FBI carried away more than 20 boxes from Mar-a-Lago, with 11 sets of classified government records, some labeled “top secret.”
The search was part of a federal investigation into whether Trump illegally removed and kept documents from the White House when he left office in January 2021 and whether he tried to obstruct the government’s investigation.
The documents the FBI seized were in addition to 700 pages worth of classified records the National Archives recovered from Mar-a-Lago in January, some of which entailed Special Access Program materials, a reference to security protocols reserved for the country’s most closely-held secrets.
Attorney General Merrick Garland later confirmed he had personally approved the extraordinary raid.
However, President Biden insisted this week that he “didn’t have any advance notice” of the raid on his predecessor.
“None, zero, not one single bit,” he said.
Trump has filed a separate civil case asking another judge to halt the FBI’s review of the seized records pending the appointment of a special master to independently review them for materials that could be protected under executive privilege, a legal principle that lets a president shield some information.
With Post wires