CNN and other news outlets ask court to unseal entire court record related to Mar-a-Lago search
By Tierney Sneed, CNN
CNN, joined by The Washington Post, NBC News and Scripps, asked a court on Thursday to unseal documents connected to the FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence this week — including documents not covered by the Justice Department’s own bid to unseal a selection of the warrant materials.
Specifically, CNN and the other outlets are asking for the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida to unseal the entire record filed with the court, including all probable cause affidavits filed in support of the search warrant.
The request was filed after the Justice Department submitted its own request with the federal court to unseal certain warrant materials. In remarks announcing the request, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department is seeking the release of the “search warrant and property receipt” from the FBI’s search.
But there are other documents that prosecutors file with federal courts when seeking search warrant, including affidavits from investigators laying out why they believe that there is probable cause that a crime was committed and the evidence of that crime existed in recent days at the site where the search was sought.
Garland said Thursday that he would not be “providing further details as to the basis of the search at this time.” The department also declined to comment on why it is not seeking to unseal the affidavits.
The court has instructed the Justice Department to confer with Trump and tell the court by Friday afternoon whether the former president opposes the release of the documents.
In the unsealing filing by CNN and the other outlets with the court, they pointed to “the historic importance of these events.”
“Before the events of this week, not since the Nixon Administration had the federal government wielded its power to seize records from a former President in such a public fashion,” the outlets said in the filing.
The filing said that “tremendous public interest in these records in particular outweighs any purported interest in keeping them secret.”
“The Media Intervenors certainly do not seek these records for any illegitimate purpose,” the outlets said. “To the contrary, public access to these records will promote public understanding of this historically significant, unprecedented execution of a search warrant in the residence of a former President.”
The FBI executed a search warrant on Trump’s Florida resort Mar-a-Lago on Monday.
“Any compelling government interest in the ongoing investigation that the government can demonstrate through competent, compelling proof can and should be satisfied with narrow redactions before the Court orders the remainder released,” the outlets said.
Since the search on Trump’s home, his allies have demanded that the Justice Department explain the search, with some Republicans suggesting that the Department was being weaponized politically.
However, neither Trump nor his team have released the documents they would have been provided by investigators as part of the search. CNN previously reported that the search was connected to the federal investigation into whether Trump was improperly storing classified documents from his presidency at his home. Garland said Thursday that he “personally approved” the department’s decision to seek a search warrant.
The outlets, in seeking the warrant materials’ unsealing, pointed to Trump’s and his attorneys’ public discussion of the search, including their disclosure of “information about the subject matter of the search warrant.”
“Given the former President’s own public discussion, the seriousness of the allegations against him, and the condemnations of law enforcement by his supporters, disclosure of the Search Warrant Records could not be more in the public interest,” the filing said. “Trump can hardly claim that his reputational or privacy interests would be harmed by public review of what he characterizes as a ‘witch hunt.'”
Other entities have asked the court to unseal warrants thought to be connected to the search. Similar requests filed separately by the conservative group Judicial Watch, as well as the news outlets the Albany Times Union and The New York Times, have prompted a magistrate judge to order that the Justice Department respond to the requests by 5 p.m. ET on Monday. That response can be filed secretly, the court said, but the department will also have to file a redacted version on the public docket.
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CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz contributed to this report.