(CN) — The sworn affidavit that brought FBI agents inside former President Donald Trump’s south Florida resort home, Mar-a-Lago, must be made public in less than 24 hours, a federal ruled Thursday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart wrote in the 2-page order that he found 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.”
The redactions, Reinhart wrote, are “the least onerous alternative to sealing the entire affidavit.”
Justice Department representatives did not immediately respond to an email request for comment on the decision requiring it to make the affidavit public by noon Friday.
Reinhart's decision comes one week after he heard arguments from media groups and a conservative nonprofit that claimed the affidavit, which states probable cause for the search warrant, should be unsealed because it is of substantial public interest.
Redacted versions of the search warrant and property receipt, which lists items seized by the FBI, were already made public earlier this month by Judge Reinhart at the behest of the Department of Justice.
According to the records unsealed by the court, the FBI took about 20 boxes of documents, including 11 sets of classified records, from Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8. Among the seized materials were the grant of clemency to the former president's close ally Roger Stone, binders of photos and what is described as “info re: President of France.”
Unsatisfied with the warrant and property receipt, the groups insisted in court filings that Judge Reinhart should also unseal the affidavit because “details of the investigation have appeared in publications throughout the world, members of Congress have demanded that the Justice Department provide an explanation, and political commentary on the search continues unabated.”
The Justice Department meanwhile argued in a response brief that even though the “general nature” of the investigation is publicly known, “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.”
Ruling from the bench last week, Judge Reinhart gave the Department of Justice until this afternoon to submit proposed redactions and to outline justification for what the department wants to keep hidden from the public.
On Monday, he issued a written order affirming his earlier decision to make the FBI submit proposed redactions for the affidavit.
While he rejected the Department of Justice’s claim that drafting the redactions would take too much time and resources, Reinhart wrote in Monday’s order that the redactions might be so “extensive” – it would render the affidavit “meaningless” if released to the public.
Come Thursday, Reinhart reviewed the proposed redactions and found that the government sufficiently proved parts of the affidavit should remain sealed because disclosure would reveal identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents and uncharged parties, the investigation’s strategy, direction, scope, sources, and methods, as well as grand jury information.
Former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers told Courthouse News earlier this month that even a redacted version of the affidavit could raise problems for the FBI.
“Even though source names are not used, often sources can be identified by how they are described and the information they shared, and that could lead to a source ending his/her cooperation, or to witness tampering,” Rodgers said in an email.
Trump, for his part, is not contesting the effort to unseal the affidavit and has criticized the raid as a “political witch hunt,” insisting he verbally “declassified” the sensitive documents seized by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago.