The U.S. Justice Department asked a judge on Thursday to make public the warrant that authorized an FBI search of Donald Trump‘s Florida home, after the former president attacked the search as an act of political retribution. The request means the public could learn more about what investigators were looking for at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach on Monday during the unprecedented search of a former president’s home.
The search was part of an investigation into whether Trump illegally removed records from the White House as he left office, some of which the Justice Department believes are classified. Attorney General Merrick Garland, the country’s top law enforcement officer, told a news conference that he had personally approved the decision to order the search. The department also seeks to make public a redacted receipt of the items seized.
“The department does not take such a decision lightly. Where possible, it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search, and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken,” Garland said. His decision to publicly confirm the search was highly unusual. U.S. law enforcement officials typically do not discuss ongoing investigations to protect people’s rights. In this case, Trump himself announced the search in a Monday night statement.
Garland said the Justice Department made the request “in light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter. “A source familiar with the matter said the FBI retrieved about 10 boxes from Trump’s property during the search.
WILL TRUMP’S LAWYERS OBJECT?
It was unclear whether Trump’s legal team would object to the release of the warrant, which could shed light on the nature of the investigation. The government has until 3 p.m. ET (1900 GMT) on Friday to let the court know whether Trump’s attorneys will object to unsealing the warrant. The case is before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who reviewed the warrant to ensure the Justice Department had sufficient probable cause for the search. While seeking to unseal the warrant, the Justice Department has not asked the judge to unseal the sworn statement in support of the warrant, the contents of which could potentially include classified information. Two of Trump’s attorneys, Evan Corcoran and John Rowley, did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement on his Truth social network, Trump said: “My attorneys and representatives were cooperating fully, and very good relationships had been established. The government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it.”
The unprecedented search marked a significant escalation in one of the many federal and state probes Trump is facing from his time in office and in private business, including a separate probe by the Justice Department into a failed bid by Trump’s allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election by submitting phony slates of electors.
The investigation into Trump’s removal of records started earlier this year, after the National Archives made a referral to the department.Former Archivist David Ferriero has previously said that Trump returned 15 boxes to the government in January 2022. The archives later discovered some of the items were “marked as classified national security information.”
A couple of months prior to the search, FBI agents visited Trump’s property to investigate boxes in a locked storage room, according to a person familiar with the visit.The agents and Corcoran spent a day reviewing materials, the source said. A second source who had been briefed on the matter told Reuters the Justice Department also has surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago in its possession.
Garland’s Justice Department has faced fierce criticism and online threats since Monday’s search. Trump supporters and some of his fellow Republicans in Washington accuse Democrats of weaponizing the federal bureaucracy to target Trump.In Cincinnati, Ohio, on Thursday, an armed man suspected of trying to breach the FBI building later died following an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement officers, an Ohio State Highway Patrol official said.
Garland condemned the threats and attacks against the FBI and Justice Department. “I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” he said. Some Democrats have criticized Garland for being overly cautious in investigating Trump over his attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden.