A federal judge in Florida on Thursday ordered the United States Justice Department to make public a redacted version of an affidavit used to justify an FBI search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home.
Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart set a deadline of noon Friday for a redacted or blacked-out version of the document to be released.
Agents raided Trump's home in Palm Beach earlier this month, and the original unedited document likely contains key information on why it happened.
Affidavit could clarify what FBI was looking for
Documents already made public as part of the investigation showed the FBI was trying to establish if Trump improperly handled government records by taking them from the White House to Mar-a-Lago.
US presidents ordinarily transfer all of their documents and emails during their time in office to the National Archives.
The affidavit would possibly spell out why the FBI wanted to search Mar-a-Lago and why they believed they would find evidence of a potential crime there.
The FBI carried away more than 20 boxes containing what authorities have characterized as classified government records, some of which were labeled "top secret."
After Trump accused the FBI of political retribution against him, Attorney General Merrick Garland made the unusual decision to confirm the existence of the department's investigation. Garland also asked a court to unseal large portions of the search warrant and property receipt listing the seized items.
The department initially declined to release the affidavit, prompting media companies to file a legal challenge to get it unsealed.
Trump called on social media for the document to be unsealed, though his lawyers had not weighed in on the matter.
Affidavit likely heavily redacted
In his order on Thursday, Reinhart said the department had made compelling arguments to leave sealed broad swaths of the document that, if disclosed, would reveal grand jury information; the identities of witnesses and "uncharged parties''; and details about the investigation's "strategy, direction, scope, sources and methods.''
Earlier this week, Trump's legal team asked that the investigation be halted so that an independent third-party attorney, known as a special master, review them for materials that could be protected under executive privilege, a legal principle that lets a president shield some information.
Trump, who is weighing another White House run in 2024, has vehemently denounced the FBI raid.
"The Radical Left Democrat prosecutors are illegally trying to circumvent, for purely political gain, the Presidential Records Act, under which I have done absolutely nothing wrong," Trump said on social media on Thursday.
"They illegally raided my home, and took things that should not have been taken," he said.