- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The federal judge who approved the search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate has scheduled a Thursday hearing on media requests to unseal the affidavit used to justify the FBI’s search.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart on Tuesday set a hearing for media outlets and other groups to make their case for publicly releasing the affidavit. The Justice Department has opposed its release and will argue against its disclosure.

While the search warrant and other documents related to last week’s raid at Mr. Trump’s residence have been released, Mr. Trump and his allies have demanded the Justice Department release the affidavit, which details the reasons the warrant itself was granted.

The affidavit would lay out details about the investigation of Mr. Trump, including why prosecutors thought evidence of a crime could be found at Mar-a-Lago and why they needed to execute a search now.

“Where’s the affidavit? We still need to see the affidavit,” tweeted Sen. Lindsay Graham, South Carolina Republican.

On Monday, Justice Department lawyers insisted releasing the affidavit would jeopardize its investigation and damage the reputations of those involved.

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“Even when the public is already aware of the general nature of the investigation, revealing the specific contents of a search warrant affidavit could alter the investigation’s trajectory, reveal ongoing and future investigative efforts, and undermine agents’ ability to collect evidence or obtain truthful testimony,” the Justice Department said in a court filing.

“In addition to the implications for the investigation, the release of this type of investigative material could have ‘devastating consequences’ for the reputations and rights of individuals whose actions and statements are described,” the department continued.

Mr. Trump has called for the affidavit’s release.

“In the interest of TRANSPARENCY, I call for the immediate release of the completely Unredacted Affidavit pertaining to this horrible and shocking BREAK-IN,” he wrote in a post on his Truth Social platform.

He also demanded Judge Reinhart recuse himself from deciding whether to release the affidavit because he approved the search warrant.

The Justice Department released a copy of the warrant Friday leading to the search, revealing that agents seized 11 sets of classified documents among roughly 28 boxes removed from the estate during their highly publicized search earlier last week.

In releasing the warrant, the Justice Department also revealed that Mr. Trump was under investigation for violations of the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law that bars the unauthorized retention of national security information.

The law makes it a crime to destroy or hide federal government documents or unlawfully remove government materials.

Anyone convicted of violating the statute could face a $10,000 fine and up to 20 years in prison.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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