Judge schedules hearing on unsealing FBI Mar-a-Lago search records

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U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart scheduled an in-person hearing on Thursday in Florida regarding the unsealing of FBI records related to last week’s raid of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.

The hearing is set to be held Aug. 18 in the West Palm Beach Division. Reinhart will discuss with the government and Trump’s legal team the motion to unseal the search warrant materials and attachments—the affidavit for the search warrant likely is included in that material.

Media organizations are asking Reinhart to unseal the affidavit despite objections by the Department of Justice. Reinhart has not ruled on the matter yet.

Justice Department prosecutors have asked Reinhart to keep the affidavit sealed to “protect the integrity of an ongoing law enforcement investigation that implicates national security.”

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“Disclosure at this juncture of the affidavit supporting probable cause would, by contrast, cause significant and irreparable damage to this ongoing criminal investigation,” the Justice Department said in its motion, noting that the affidavit includes “critically important and detailed investigative facts,” such as “highly sensitive information about witnesses, including witnesses interviewed by the government; specific investigative techniques; and information required by law to be kept under seal pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e).”

A police officer speaks with a woman outside former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago home after Trump said that FBI agents raided it, in Palm Beach, Florida, August 8, 2022. 

A police officer speaks with a woman outside former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home after Trump said that FBI agents raided it, in Palm Beach, Florida, August 8, 2022.  (REUTERS/Marco Bello)

“If disclosed, the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course, in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps,” the Justice Department continued. “In addition, information about witnesses is particularly sensitive given the high-profile nature of this matter and the risk that the revelation of witness identities would impact their willingness to cooperate with the investigation.”

Prosecutors added that disclosure of the affidavit would “likely chill future cooperation by witnesses whose assistance may be sought as this investigation progresses, as well as in other high-profile investigations.”

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“The fact that this investigation implicates highly classified materials further underscores the need to protect the integrity of the investigation and exacerbates the potential for harm if information is disclosed to the public prematurely or improperly,” the Justice Department said.

However, former President Trump, overnight on his TRUTH Social platform, demanded the affidavit be unsealed and released in an unredacted form.

“In the interest of TRANSPARENCY, I call for the immediate release of the completely Unredacted Affidavit pertaining to this horrible and shocking BREAK-IN,” Trump posted.

Reinhart, last week, unsealed the FBI’s search warrant and property receipt from the search. Reinhart signed the warrant on Aug. 5, giving the FBI authority to conduct its search.

According to the property receipt, reviewed before its release by Fox News Digital, FBI agents took approximately 20 boxes of items from the premises, including one set of documents marked as “Various classified/TS/SCI documents,” which refers to top secret/sensitive compartmented information.

Former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. 

Former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.  (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Records covered by that government classification level could potentially include human intelligence and information that, if disclosed, could jeopardize relations between the United States and other nations, as well as the lives of intelligence operatives abroad. However, the classification also encompasses national security information related to the daily operations of the president of the United States.

The property receipt also shows that FBI agents collected four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents and three sets of confidential documents.

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The property receipt does not reveal any details about any of those records.

The list also includes a “leatherbound box of documents,” binders of photos, handwritten notes, miscellaneous documents, miscellaneous top secret documents, miscellaneous confidential documents and other records.

The government conducted the search in response to what it believes to be a violation of federal laws: 18 USC 793 — gathering, transmitting or losing defense information; 18 USC 2071 — concealment, removal or mutilation; and 18 USC 1519 — destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.

Donald Trump leaves NYC post-FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago resort

Donald Trump leaves NYC post-FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago resort (Felipe Ramales: Fox News Digital)

The allegation of “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information” falls under the Espionage Act.

The former president and his team are disputing the classification and say they believe the information and records to have been declassified.

Sources familiar with the investigation told Fox News Digital that the FBI also seized boxes containing records covered by attorney-client privilege and potentially executive privilege during its raid.

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Sources familiar with the investigation told Fox News Saturday that the former president’s team was informed that boxes labeled A-14, A-26, A-43, A-13, A-33, as well as a set of documents — all seen on the final page of the FBI’s property receipt — contained information covered by attorney-client privilege.

Attorney-client privilege refers to a legal privilege that keeps communications between an attorney and their client confidential.

Sources told Fox News Digital that some records could be covered by executive privilege, which gives the president of the United States and other officials within the executive branch the authority to withhold certain sensitive forms of advice and consultation between the president and senior advisers.

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It is unclear, at this point, if the records include communications between the former president and his private attorneys, White House counsel during the Trump administration, or a combination.

Sources told Fox News that, due to attorney-client privilege, Trump’s team asked the Justice Department for their position on whether they would support a third party, independent special master to review those records, but sources told Fox News that the DOJ notified Trump’s team that they would oppose that request.

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