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Denver7's parent company, other news outlets ask court to unseal entire Mar-a-Lago search case

Companies seeking application for warrant, probable cause affidavits, among other things
mar-a-lago trump fbi
Posted at 12:10 PM, Aug 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-12 14:12:17-04

DENVER — Denver7’s parent company, the E.W. Scripps Company, filed a motion Thursday along with The Washington Post, CNN and NBC News seeking to unseal the full case record of the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

The government filed a motion with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida Thursday asking the court to partially unseal records in the case – specifically the search warrant, two attachments to it, and a redacted property receipt that lists the items seized in the Aug. 8 search warrant execution.

The government seized boxes of records in the search relating to an ongoing DOJ investigation into classified records that were being kept at Mar-a-Lago. Earlier this year, the National Archives found classified records inside other boxes of records that were received from Trump’s residence.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing documents reporters reviewed, that 11 sets of classified documents were seized, including some marked as top secret. The Washington Post reported Thursday some of the records were linked to nuclear documents.

Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who signed the warrant, could potentially decide whether to agree to the government’s request for the unsealing of those specific records on Friday. Trump’s attorneys are supposed to respond to the government’s request by Friday afternoon, but Trump himself has repeatedly said on his social media app that he would like the records to be released.

But the filing from the E.W. Scripps Company and the other news outlets asks for even more records to be unsealed, which would contain more information about what was seized and what led the judge to approve a search warrant in the first place. The motion also supports the government’s motion for the partial unsealing.

The news companies are asking for the search warrants and the attachments, the warrant application, all probable cause affidavits filed in support of the search warrant, any motions to seal the records in the case, any orders sealing the records, any search warrant return, and any other records tied to the warrant.

“The tremendous public interest in these records in particular outweighs any purported interest in keeping them secret,” the attorneys for the companies wrote in the filing.

The filing argues that the service of the search warrant was the first time since Watergate the government has tried to seize records from a former president – which the attorneys call events of “historic importance.”

The news organizations argue, citing other court opinions, that having full access to the records would help the public understand why the operation occurred and more about the judicial and criminal justice processes.

The attorneys argue that since the government filed the motion to partially unseal parts of the case, and Attorney General Merrick Garland held a news conference discussing that motion and his approval of the application for a search warrant, that the government’s position “strongly supports” the unsealing of all records in the case.

“Here, there could not be a more ‘historically significant event’ than an FBI raid of a former President’s home for the alleged removal of national security records after leaving office. The Media Intervenors certainly do not seek these records for any illegitimate purpose,” the filing says. “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 attorneys for the news organizations also argued in the filing that the full case should be unsealed because Trump and his attorneys have already discussed the subject matter of the warrant and that it is based “on possible violations of the Presidential Records Act and laws concerning the handling of classified material.”

“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 news organizations’ attorneys wrote in the filing. “Trump can hardly claim that his reputational or privacy interests would be harmed by public review of what he characterizes as a ‘witch hunt.’ Transparency of the search warrant process, especially here, clearly would ‘operate as a curb on prosecutorial or judicial misconduct,’ as the former President and his supporters have alleged.”

The attorneys additionally argued that unsealing the full case would provide transparency on the FBI’s basis for the warrant service and whether the government already has credible information Trump may have violated the law.

The news organizations’ attorneys argue in the motion that narrow redactions to the materials should be able to satisfy the government’s protection of the ongoing investigation. The government in its Thursday request already asked for the names of the law enforcement officers who executed the search warrant to be removed if and when the warrant and property receipt are unsealed.

In a statement on Truth Social, Trump has repeatedly slammed the FBI’s search of his estate, calling it “unwarranted and unnecessary.” He wrote that he was “encouraging the immediate release” of the warrant, though he and his attorneys have not released them themselves.

Typically, the government keeps documents like these sealed during ongoing investigations. But the government wrote in its motion Thursday that “the public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing.”

The Palm Beach Post and CBS News also filed motions to intervene in the case. Judge Reinhart ruled Friday morning that all of the news outlets may intervene in order to seek the unsealing but has yet to rule on the request to unseal the records.