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Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

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Judicial Watch Asks Court to Reject Biden DOJ Request to Keep Trump Raid Affidavit Under Seal

(Washington, DC)Judicial Watch announced today that it filed its reply to the DOJ’s filing to keep under seal the affidavit used to justify the controversial raid on the home of former President Trump. Judicial Watch cites former President Trump’s support for the release of the affidavit and argues:

The public interest in the contents of the affidavit cannot be understated. The secrecy surrounding the search warrant, and the affidavit that led to its issuance, has caused the nation to convulse with intrigue and harmful speculation that will only increase the longer the truth is kept from the public. The heat must be replaced with light, and soon. Maintaining the seal will only fuel more speculation, uncertainty, leaks, and political intrigue and it will also serve to undermine public confidence in the fair administration of justice and equal protection of the law. Considering the gravity of this unprecedented action by the government, at a minimum, the Court should review the affidavit line-by-line to determine what information may be disclosed and what information may be redacted to balance the competing concerns at issue.

The Justice Department was ordered by Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart to respond this past Monday to Judicial Watch’s Motion to Unseal the warrant and supporting materials behind the FBI raid of President Donald Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago. In its filing, the Justice Department alleged that releasing the affidavit would “cause significant and irreparable damage” to its ongoing criminal investigation.

“The Biden administration is compounding the obvious abuse of the raid on Trump’s home with an arrogant assertion of secrecy about its unprecedented action,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Biden administration has created a crisis of confidence in its ability to fairly administer justice which requires, in the least, basic transparency about its extraordinary targeting of President Trump.”

The Judicial Watch filing states as follows:

Movant Judicial Watch, Inc., by counsel, respectfully submits this reply in support of its motion to unseal the search warrant materials in this case

1.        There is no dispute that the Court “must balance the presumptive right of access against important competing interests and then weigh[] the Government’s asserted reasons for continued sealing against Petitioner’s interest in access.”

2.        The government’s opposition is devoid of any balancing of the interests at stake even though, in its motion to unseal the warrant and the inventory list, the government recognized that “[t]his matter plainly concerns public officials or public concerns as it involves a law enforcement action taken at the property of the 45th President of the United States.  The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing.”  The government’s argument for keeping the search warrant affidavit under wraps is little more than the assertion that the affidavit should remain sealed because of what the government says is important. Movant does not dispute the importance of preserving the integrity of criminal investigations and protecting the country’s national security interests. However, the public may be forgiven for not taking the government at its word as to what information would jeopardize such interests. Indeed, that is precisely why the Constitution inveighs this Court with the heavy responsibility of balancing the government’s and the public’s competing interests in disclosure.

3.        The Court must give searching review to the government’s claimed reasons for keeping the affidavit under seal. (“[T]he decision to seal the papers must be made by the judicial officer; he cannot abdicate this function.”).  And while the government asserts that movants’ case law is “readily distinguishable,” the government identifies no analogous case law concerning the execution of a search warrant at the home of a sitting president’s immediate predecessor and election opponent and potential future election opponent.  It is the government’s case law that is readily distinguishable.

4.       The public interest in the contents of the affidavit cannot be understated. The secrecy surrounding the search warrant, and the affidavit that led to its issuance, has caused the nation to convulse with intrigue and harmful speculation that will only increase the longer the truth is kept from the public. The heat must be replaced with light, and soon. Maintaining the seal will only fuel more speculation, uncertainty, leaks, and political intrigue and it will also serve to undermine public confidence in the fair administration of justice and equal protection of the law.  Considering the gravity of this unprecedented action by the government, at a minimum, the Court should review the affidavit line-by-line to determine what information may be disclosed and what information may be redacted to balance the competing concerns at issue.

5.         The unsealing of the warrant and inventory list has not satisfied the public interest.  If anything, disclosure of the inventory of records seized during the search has only further inflamed public debate about the search and increased public interest in the disclosure of as much of the affidavit as possible.

6.         Relatedly, and as has been widely reported, President Trump has also called for the immediate release of the completely unredacted search warrant affidavit.

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