Former President Donald Trump believes it is in the public interest that the full and unredacted affidavit for the search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is released, a move with risks and rewards.
The former president’s spokesperson, Taylor Budowich, told The New York Times Thursday that Trump has expressed his desire to let the American people see the unredacted affidavit relating to the raid and break-in at his home. Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart indicated he might be willing to unseal portions of the document; he said the American people should be allowed to view it.
By next Thursday, Reinhart ordered Justice Department officials to suggest redactions to the document. The magistrate judge rejected the DOJ’s cynical attempt to hide the entire affidavit from Americans, Budowich said. The whole affidavit should be released, given that Democrats like to hide government corruption with redactions, similar to their handling of the Russia hoax.
According to Trump and his supporters, the FBI and Justice Department improperly surveilled his 2016 presidential campaign, indicating a bias against the former president.
Per a separate post on Truth Social, Trump called for the “immediate release” of the unredacted affidavit, citing the need for transparency. He also asked Reinhart to recuse himself without providing a clear explanation.
According to experts, Trump’s rhetoric follows a similar playbook, where the former president demands the release of potentially sensitive information.
The government and judge denying the release of the complete, unredacted document allows Trump and his supporters to claim federal law enforcement is hiding something.
According to Columbia Law Professor Dan Richman, it certainly fits with a project to delegitimize law enforcement and law enforcement targeting him specifically. Regardless of the case, he knows that the government will be reluctant to disclose search warrants as an institutional matter.
There is information in the affidavit about the federal law enforcement investigation into Trump’s handling of classified material following his departure from the White House. This information was used to convince Reinhart that there was enough evidence to support the probable cause needed to obtain a search warrant.
According to the Justice Department, releasing the affidavit could jeopardize an ongoing investigation and the sources of information used in the investigation. Threats could arise from releasing identifying information about those sources. For instance, Reinhart has been threatened since approving the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago.
Besides the risks for the Justice Department, there could be some risks for Trump if the complete affidavit is made public.
Whether he shared intel with unauthorized parties while out of office presents a risk, according to a former Trump adviser, who noted that such details could be redacted.
As experts pointed out, the affidavit could also reveal exchanges between the Justice Department and Trump’s team regarding the need to return sensitive materials, which ultimately demonstrated the government had attempted to secure the documents in question in good faith before issuing a search warrant.
Trump could also face political risks if releasing the affidavit strengthens the argument that he mishandled classified information. Voters have indicated they believe Trump may have broken the law as president based on polls.
Polling shows that about half of the registered voters approve of the Mar-a-Lago raid, according to a Politico-Morning Consult poll released days after the search. However, only 15 percent of Republicans backed the raid. In addition, 58 percent of voters said Trump broke the law as president, either definitely or probably.
Hardcore supporters may demand the affidavit, but the broader public may be further concerned if it is released. For Trump to win the White House in 2024, he needs to gain the support of a broader base.
If the judge decides to release the affidavit with limited or no redactions, Richman predicted the government would appeal, saying he would not expect it to be the end of the matter. He further stated it could set a poor precedent for high-profile searches in the future.