Saturday, April 20

Bruce Reinhart’s Decision on Trump Search Affidavit Explained

A federal judge in Florida will hear arguments today about the potential unsealing of an affidavit that was part of the basis for the FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

Federal magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who signed off on the warrant authorizing the search as part of an investigation into the handling of White House documents, will hear the case at 1p.m. ET

Several media outlets are calling for the affidavit to be released and Trump has also demanded his release, as he previously called for the release of the warrant.

“I call for the immediate release of the completely Unredacted Affidavit pertaining to this horrible and shocking BREAK-IN,” Trump said on his Truth Social media site on Tuesday.

However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is opposed to releasing the affidavit and has told Reinhart doing so would “likely chill future cooperation by witnesses.”

It is not clear how quickly Reinhart may make the decision on whether to unseal the affidavit after today’s hearing. The warrant authorizing the search was released by Reinhart after DOJ requested it be made public and Trump’s team did not object.

However, Reinhart will have to weigh up conflicting arguments about the release of the affidavit.

Legal experts who spoke to Newsweek explained what the affidavit might reveal and why DOJ may be opposed to its release.

probable cause

Judge Reinhart has already seen the affidavit and would have used his assessment of it to determine whether the FBI had probable cause for the search, according to Jeffrey L. Kirchmeier, professor of law at CUNY School of Law.

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“The affidavit would provide information about why the FBI believed that the documents were held illegally and that they would be found at the place of the search,” Kirchmeier told Newsweek.

“The judge assesses the information in the affidavit to assess whether the FBI had probable cause to believe that the illegal documents were where they believed they were,” he said.

He noted that probable cause “is generally a low standard—lower than standards for conviction or even civil liability—but there has to be credible justification.”

Witnesses and Compliance

The affidavit is also likely to provide information about efforts to get Trump to comply with the FBI investigation before the agency sought a warrant for a search.

“The affidavit will reveal the rationale for the search warrant and is in effect the story behind the need to have a search warrant,” said Gregory Caldeira, a professor of law at the Ohio State University.

“It will, for example, report on attempts to secure voluntary compliance, a more precise description of the nature of the documents [and] testimony from witnesses.”

The DOJ’s Investigation

Neither Trump nor anyone else has been charged with a crime arising from the FBI investigation, but that probe is ongoing. That may be a major factor in DOJ objecting to making the affidavit public.

“The DOJ may be against releasing the affidavit for a number of reasons. One of those reasons might be that the affidavit would likely include information about where the government obtained its information,” Kirchmeier said.

In this combination image, A police car is seen outside former US President Donald Trump’s residence in Mar-A-Lago, Palm Beach, Florida on August 8, 2022 and Former US President Donald Trump (Inset) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference ( CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole on August 06, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. A federal judge in Florida will hear arguments about the unsealing of an affidavit related to the Mar-a-Lago search on Thursday.

The DOJ appeared to acknowledge that in a court filing opposing its release on Monday, saying 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.”

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The Mar-a-Lago Informant

Trump may wish to unseal the affidavit because of information it could contain about witnesses. Two senior government officials previously told Newsweek that intelligence for the raid was provided by a confidential human source based within Trump’s team.

Kirchmeier said that the information “might include the name of an informant or information about an anonymous informant.”

“My understanding from the news is that some information came from inside Mar-a-Lago, and assuming that it is true, I suspect that President Trump would like information about that person or persons,” he said.

“The US wants to keep it sealed because it may reveal the identity of witnesses and other sources and/or reveal the US’s legal strategy,” Caldeira told Newsweek.

“Trump wants to see the affidavit for the opposite reasons, to put pressure on witnesses, and try to discredit the case,” he added.

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