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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Judge orders release of Trump search papers

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 A US judge has ordered investigators to release an edited version of court papers that authorised the August 8 search of Donald Trump’s Florida estate.

The public version of the affidavit, a document that includes the evidence gathered by prosecutors, could reveal new details about the inquiry.

On Thursday, US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the redacted affidavit to be released by Friday 4 pm local time, BBC reported.

He said prosecutors had demonstrated a “compelling reason” to black out parts of the document, which would reveal the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents and uncharged parties, as well as “the investigation’s strategy, direction, scope, sources and methods”.

The ruling came shortly after the justice department confirmed that it had submitted to the judge a copy of the affidavit with proposed redactions. The Department of Justice had opposed releasing an uncensored version amid its ongoing investigation.

Even in redacted form, the affidavit could provide clues as to why Trump allegedly took classified documents with him in the chaotic final days of his presidency and what he did with them while they were stored in Palm Beach, the BBC added.

The rest may have to wait for when – or if – any criminal charges are filed. The warrant itself was released on August 12 alongside an inventory of recovered items that showed 11 sets of classified files were removed from the estate.

The FBI search was part of a probe into the potential mishandling of documents.

According to the search warrant, the FBI wanted to see if Trump committed a crime by improperly handling government records when he took them from the White House to Mar-a-Lago as his administration ended in 2020.

US presidents are required to transfer documents and emails to the National Archives when they leave office.

The former US president has denied wrongdoing and insists the classified files that investigators say were found in Florida had already been declassified by himself.

Several news organisations have applied for the affidavit to be unsealed, citing public interest given the historic nature of the search of a former president’s home.

The Department of Justice, however, had resisted the move, arguing that its release could cause “irreparable damage” to its ongoing investigation. It also said the necessary redactions would render the document “meaningless”.

Trump and his lawyers – who have characterised the Mar-a-Lago search as politically motivated and unlawful. His team said that efforts to “hide” its contents were “cynical” and could be used to “hide government corruption”.

Earlier in the week, Trump’s legal team sought independent third-party attorney, Special Master, be brought in to oversee the documents that the FBI took during the search.

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