Former President Trump is pushing for the full, unredacted release of the affidavit that led to the search warrant for his Mar-a-Lago estate.
“Pres. Trump has made it clear that he wants the American people to be allowed to see an unredacted affidavit related to the search and break-in at his home,” Taylor Budovich, the former president’s spokesman, said Thursday after federal magistrate judge Bruce Reinhardt said. He may be willing to unravel parts of the document.
Reinhardt directed Justice Department officials to recommend amendments to the document by next Thursday.
“Today, Magistrate Judge Reinhardt dismissed the DOJs [Justice Department’s] A cynical attempt to hide the entire confession from the Americans,” Budovich continued. “However, given the Democrats’ willingness to cover up government corruption, as with the Russian hoax, redactions are unnecessary and the entire confession should be released.”
Trump and his supporters have for years believed the FBI and Justice Department were biased against the former president, arguing the bureau improperly monitored his 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump posted separately on his social media site, Truth Social, calling for the “immediate release” of the unredacted affidavit, citing the need for transparency. He also called for Reinhardt to recuse himself from the case without giving a clear reason.
Trump and his camp’s rhetoric follows a similar playbook, experts say, in which the former president demands disclosure of sensitive information.
The government and judge’s refusal to release the full, unredacted document allows Trump and his allies to say federal law enforcement is hiding something, fueling further distrust among Trump supporters.
“It’s certainly consistent with a plan to specifically target law enforcement and law enforcement,” said Dan Richman, a law professor at Columbia University. “He knows, because everyone knows, that the government will avoid disclosing search warrants as an institutional matter regardless of the case.”
The affidavit used to convince Reinhart there was enough evidence to support the probable cause needed to obtain a search warrant included information about a federal law enforcement investigation into Trump’s handling of classified information following his departure from the White House.
The Justice Department argued that the release of the affidavit would affect the ongoing investigation and evidence in the case. Releasing identifying information about those sources could lead to threats. Reinhart, for example, has faced threats since signing the warrant to search Mar-a-Lago.
Beyond the risks to the judiciary, there may be some risks for Trump if the full affidavit is released.
“There’s a risk if he appears to be sharing intel with unauthorized parties when he’s not in office,” said one former Trump adviser, noting that such details could eventually be redacted by the government.
Experts also indicated that the affidavit could reveal exchanges between the Justice Department and the Trump team discussing the need to return key materials.
If the release of the affidavit strengthens the case that Trump mishandled classified information, it could also pose a political risk to Trump.
Polls already show that a significant percentage of voters think Trump may have broken the law as president.
A Politico-Morning Advice poll released days after the Mar-a-Lago search found that about half of registered voters approved of the raid, though only 15 percent of Republicans did. And 58 percent of voters said they believe Trump has definitely or has broken the law as president.
While the calls to release the affidavit may excite his hardcore supporters, it may ultimately create more concerns for the wider public. Trump needs to win over a broad base to win the White House if he runs for president in 2024.
Richman, the Columbia law professor, said he doesn’t expect it to end if the justices choose to issue a limited or redacted affidavit, adding that the government will appeal such a decision.
“I expect the core of the appeal will be the broader institutional question of whether this should be done,” Richman said. “This could set a very bad precedent for high-profile searches in the future.”