WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump called late Thursday for the “immediate” release of the federal warrant the FBI used to look his Florida estate, hours after the Justice Department had asked a court to unseal the warrant, with Attorney General Merrick Garland citing the “substantial public interest on this matter.”
In messages posted on his Truth Social platform, Trump wrote:
The Justice Department request earlier Thursday is striking because such documents traditionally remain sealed during a pending investigation. However the department appeared to acknowledge that its silence for the reason that search had created a vacuum for bitter verbal attacks by Trump and his allies, and that the general public was entitled to the FBI’s side about what prompted Monday’s motion at the previous president’s home.
“The general public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” said a motion filed in federal court in Florida on Thursday.
Should the warrant be released — the request is now with the judge — it could disclose unflattering information concerning the former president and about FBI scrutiny of his handling of sensitive government documents right as he prepares for one more run for the White House. During his successful 2016 campaign, he pointed ceaselessly to an FBI investigation into his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, over whether she mishandled classified information.
It’s unclear at this point how much information could be included within the documents, if made public, or in the event that they would encompass an FBI affidavit that may presumably lay out an in depth factual basis for the search. The department specifically requested the unsealing of the warrant in addition to a property receipt listing the items that were seized, together with two unspecified attachments.
Former President Donald Trump called for the ‘immediate’ release of the warrant used to look his home hours after the Justice Department asked a court to unseal the warrant, with Attorney General Merrick Garland citing the “substantial public interest on this matter.”
Drew Angerer via Getty Images
To acquire a search warrant, federal authorities must prove to a judge that probable cause exists to consider that against the law was committed. Garland said he personally approved the warrant, a choice he said the department didn’t take evenly on condition that standard practice where possible is to pick out less intrusive tactics than a search of 1’s home.
On this case, in accordance with an individual aware of the matter, there was substantial engagement with Trump and his representatives prior to the search warrant, including a subpoena for records and a visit to Mar-a-Lago a few months ago by FBI and Justice Department officials to evaluate how the documents were stored. The person was not authorized to debate the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Neither Trump nor the FBI has said anything about what documents the FBI may need recovered, or what precisely agents were on the lookout for. But the previous president complained anew Thursday concerning the search.
Trump, who for years has lambasted the FBI and sought to sow distrust amongst his supporters in its decisions, said the warrant was served and the search conducted despite his cooperation with the Justice Department over the search.
In a post to his Truth Social platform, Trump said that his “attorneys and representatives were cooperating fully” prior to the search, and that government officials “could have had whatever they wanted, each time they wanted, if we had it.”
Trump said the warrant was served and the search conducted despite his cooperation with the Justice Department over the search.
David Dee Delgado via Reuters
The Justice Department has until Friday afternoon to alert the judge about whether Trump will object to the discharge.
FBI and Justice Department policy cautions against discussing ongoing investigations, each to guard the integrity of probes and to avoid unfairly maligning someone who’s being scrutinized but winds up ultimately not being charged. That’s very true within the case of search warrants, where supporting court papers are routinely kept secret because the investigation proceeds.
On this case, though, Garland cited the proven fact that Trump himself had provided the primary public confirmation of the FBI search, “as is his right.” The Justice Department, in its latest filing, also said that disclosing details about it now wouldn’t harm the court’s functions.
Even so, Garland, in a swiftly scheduled public statement delivered from the Justice Department podium, appeared to acknowledge the weird nature of the department’s request as he declined to take questions or provide any substantive details concerning the FBI’s investigation.
“Much of our work is by necessity conducted out of the general public eye. We do this to guard the constitutional rights of all Americans and to guard the integrity of our investigations,” he said. “Federal law, longstanding department rules and our ethical obligations prevent me from providing further details as to the premise of the search presently.”
The Justice Department under Garland has been leery of public statements about politically charged investigations, or of confirming to what extent it may be investigating Trump as a part of a broader probe into the Jan. 6 riot on the U.S. Capitol and efforts to overturn the outcomes of the 2020 election.
The department has tried to avoid being seen as injecting itself into presidential politics, as happened in 2016 when then-FBI Director James Comey made an unusual public statement announcing that the FBI wouldn’t be recommending criminal charges against Clinton regarding her handling of email — and when he spoke up again just over per week before the election to notify Congress that the probe was being effectively reopened due to the discovery of latest emails.
The Mar-a-Lago search warrant served Monday was a part of an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the invention of classified White House records recovered from Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida, earlier this yr. The National Archives had asked the department to research after saying 15 boxes of records it retrieved from the estate included classified records. Multiple federal laws govern the handling of classified information.
The attorney general also condemned verbal attacks on FBI and Justice Department personnel over the search. Some Republican allies of Trump have called for the FBI to be defunded. Large numbers of Trump supporters have called for the warrant to be released hoping they it’s going to show that Trump was unfairly targeted.
“I is not going to stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” Garland said of federal law enforcement agents, calling them “dedicated, patriotic public servants.”
Earlier Thursday, an armed man wearing body armor tried to breach a security screening area at an FBI field office in Ohio, then fled and was later killed after a standoff with law enforcement. A law enforcement official briefed on the matter identified the person as Ricky Shiffer and said he’s believed to have been in Washington in the times leading as much as the attack on the Capitol and can have been there on the day it took place.
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Lindsay Whitehurst and Meg Kinnard contributed to this report.