U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday that he personally approved the search warrant executed this week on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago residence. Pool Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 11 (UPI) — U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday said the Justice Department has filed a motion in the southern district of Florida to unseal the warrant and FBI property receipt in the search of former President Donald Trump‘s Mar-A-Lago residence.
“The Department did not make any public statements about the search, and the search apparently attracted little or no public attention as it was taking place,” the Department of Justice said in the motion.
“Later that same day, former President Trump issued a public statement acknowledging the execution of the warrant. In the days since, the search warrant and related materials have been the subject of significant interest and attention from news media organizations and other entities,” the Justice Department said.
It is now up to Trump’s legal team whether to challenge the department’s motion to unseal the warrant.
Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart on Thursday said the department must inform him by 3 p.m. ET on Friday whether Trump opposes the motion.
Judicial Watch, the New York Times, CBS, the Albany Times-Union and others have filed motions over the course of the week asking for the warrant to be unsealed.
Garland said Thursday from the Justice Department that he personally approved the search warrant, which was executed on Monday.
He said Trump’s counsel was given a copy of the search warrant and FBI property receipt at Mar-A-Lago on Monday during the search.
“The department filed a motion to make public the warrant and receipt in light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter,” Garland said.
“Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and of our democracy. Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor. Under my watch, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing.”
Garland said unsealing the search warrant and property list is in the public’s interest.
“This 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 department’s motion to unseal states.
“That said, the former President should have an opportunity to respond to this Motion and lodge objections, including with regards to any ‘legitimate privacy interests’ or the potential for other ‘injury’ if these materials are made public.”
The Attorney General also said Thursday he will not stay silent when FBI professionalism and the Justice Department are under attack.
“I will not stand by silently while their integrity is unfairly attacked,” Garland said, adding that he has made it clear that the Justice Department will speak through court filings and its work.
Agents searched Trump’s Mar-A-Lago home in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday night. As expected, the search under authority of a judge’s warrant drew backlash from Trump, who criticized the operation as politically motivated.
Copies of both the warrant and FBI property receipt were provided to Trump’s counsel, Garland said, and the search warrant was authorized by a court upon probable cause into potential mishandling of classified documents that ended up at Mar-A-Lago.
All presidential records are required to go to the National Archives when a president leaves office.
For nearly a year, Trump delayed returning documents to the Archives, which he took with him from the White House in 2021, and the agency eventually referred the case to the Justice Department.
Garland said Thursday that the Justice Department had initially attempted to use “less intrusive” means to recover documents from Trump’s home at Mar-A-Lago.
Trump was originally served with a federal grand jury subpoena in June. It’s believed the order was related to government documents moved to his Florida home after he left the White House.
Some of the boxes reportedly contained classified material, including some materials related to special access programs, which have significant limits on who is permitted to access the documents, CNN reported.
Among the material that agents were seeking were documents relating to nuclear weapons, The Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the investigation. The people who described the material agents were seeking spoke on the condition of anonymity and did not offer additional information about the information, including whether it involved weapons belonging to the United States or some other nation.
In early June, Justice Department officials visited the property to retrieve documents requested in the subpoena. They received some documents and, after that visit, asked for added security in the area where the documents were housed, NBC reported.
A second lock was then added to the basement storage area.
The justice department also requested, and reportedly received, surveillance video from Mar-A-Lago to determine who may have had access to the documents.
In obtaining the search warrant, the FBI persuaded Reinhart that there was probable cause that there were still documents at Mar-a-Lago, at least partially based on an informant. On Monday morning, the FBI executed the warrant and left with 12 boxes, the contents of which have not been revealed.
As Trump supporters took to social media to accuse the Biden administration and FBI of weaponizing the Justice Department, some far-right Trump supporters threatened violence against the FBI and federal government.
On Thursday, in Cincinnati, an armed man tried to get into the FBI office there, then fled and was surrounded in a corn field by the FBI and police after exchanging fire with law enforcement.
Authorities in Clinton County, Ohio, also killed a suspect who tried to breach the FBI Cincinnati Field Office while armed earlier Thursday and later exchanged gunfire with officers, authorities said.