Brian Ellsworth and Sarah N. By Lynch
(Reuters) – A U.S. judge said on Thursday he wants to release some evidence provided by the U.S. Justice Department to justify a search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home last week.
Despite the Justice Department’s objections, Judge Bruce Reinhardt said he believed “parts of the affidavit could be opened,” referring to the affidavit that presents evidence justifying probable cause to search Trump’s home.
He ordered the Justice Department to release a redacted version of the secret testimony by noon next Thursday, but said the Justice Department has the option to appeal if prosecutors disagree with his proposed version.
Reinhart’s order appeared to mark a victory for the media, which appeared in federal court in West Palm Beach on Thursday and persuaded a magistrate that the public interest in the testimony outweighed the benefits of covering it up.
The judiciary opposes the release of evidence.
Jay Pratt, head of the department’s counterintelligence and export control division, told the judge on Thursday that releasing the report was not in the public interest as it would undermine the ongoing investigation.
“Another public interest is at stake and that is the public interest that criminal investigations can proceed unhindered,” he said.
The search was part of a federal investigation into whether Trump illegally disposed of documents when he left office after losing the January 2021 presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.
The Justice Department is investigating violations of three laws, including a provision of the Espionage Act that prohibits the possession of national security information and another that makes it a crime to destroy, conceal or falsify records with intent to obstruct an investigation.
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