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Judge orders Justice Dept. to release redacted Mar-a-Lago search affidavit

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Supporters of former President Donald Trump stand outside his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Fla., after it was searched by the FBI on August 8. Photo By Gary I Rothstein/UPI
Supporters of former President Donald Trump stand outside his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Fla., after it was searched by the FBI on August 8. Photo By Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 25 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Thursday ruled that the Justice Department must release a redacted version of the warrant affidavit for the search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the public release of the affidavit by noon Friday.

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Last week, he ordered the Justice Department to send him proposed redactions for the document by Thursday, presuming some of it could be unsealed after the Justice Department opposed releasing the document.

The department said unsealing the document would compromise the investigation into Trump's handling of potentially classified documents that he took with him to his Palm Beach, Fla., residence when he left the White House.

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U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said releasing the affidavit would reveal probable cause that led prosecutors to believe a crime had been committed, and that evidence might be found at Mar-a-Lago.

A group of news outlets -- including CNN, The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal -- asked Reinhart to unseal the document on the grounds of widespread public interest and the public's right to know following remarks from Trump that are at odds with the Justice Department's account.

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On Thursday, Reinhart said the Justice Department convinced him that portions of the affidavit should remain sealed because "disclosure would reveal (1) the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents, and uncharged parties, (2) the investigation's strategy direction, scope, sources, and methods, and (3) grand jury information."

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"I further find that the government has met its burden showing that its proposed redactions are narrowly tailored to serve the government's legitimate interest in the integrity of the ongoing investigation and are the least onerous alternative to sealing the entire affidavit," he wrote.

Trump also called for the immediate release of the affidavit after he alleged that federal agents seized three of his passports, along with 11 boxes of documents, including at least one set of papers that had been categorized as top secret, classified or sensitive during the Aug. 8 search.

The Justice Department said it was working with Trump's attorneys to return the passports and evidence that does "not need to be retained for law enforcement purposes."

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On Monday, Trump also issued a legal filing requesting an injunction preventing the government from further reviewing the seized materials until a third party "special master" is appointed to the case.

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