Judge Orders Justice Dept. to Redact Affidavit Used to Search Trump’s Home in Advance of Possible Unsealing

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A federal judge ordered the government on Thursday to propose redactions to the highly sensitive affidavit that was used to justify a search warrant executed by the F.B.I. last week at former President Donald J. Trump’s private home and club, saying he was inclined to unseal parts of it.

Ruling from the bench, the judge, Bruce E. Reinhart, said it was “very important” that the public have as “much information” as it can about the search at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Florida residence, noting that there were portions of the affidavit that “could be presumptively unsealed.”

“Whether those portions would be meaningful for the public or the media,” Judge Reinhart added, was not for him to decide. He acknowledged that the redaction process can often be extensive and effectively turn documents into “meaningless gibberish.”

Judge Reinhart’s decision struck a middle course between the Justice Department, which wanted to keep the affidavit entirely under wraps as its investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of classified documents continued, and a group of news organizations, which requested that it be released in full to the public.

Warrant affidavits — which are written and sworn to by federal agents before a search takes place — contain detailed information about criminal investigations and are almost always kept under seal until charges are filed.

As part of his ruling, Judge Reinhart ordered the government to send him under seal proposed redactions to the warrant affidavit by next Thursday at noon. He said he would review the suggestions and decide if he agreed with them.

“This is going to be a considered, careful process,” Judge Reinhart said.

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