In the face of bitter attacks from Trump and his allies, the DOJ takes the unusual step of demanding the warrant be unsealed.
WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump has called for the “immediate” release of the federal warrant the FBI used to search his Florida home, hours after the Justice Department ordered a court to unseal the warrant, citing Attorney General Merrick Garland as “significant” cited public interest in the matter.”
In messages posted on his Truth Social platform, Trump wrote, “Not only will I not oppose the release of any documents…I’ll take it a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of these documents.” He grabbed The FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago continues to be labeled “un-American, unwarranted and unnecessary.”
“Release the documents now!” he wrote.
Trump has been provided with at least some of the records the government wanted to unseal, but he and his lawyers have so far declined to release them.
The decision on whether or not to unseal the records rests with US Judge Bruce Reinhart, the same judge who signed the search warrant. The department had until Friday afternoon to tell the judge whether or not Trump’s attorneys approved their proposal to release the warrant.
The ministry’s request is striking because such documents traditionally remain sealed while an investigation is pending. But the department seemed to recognize that their silence since the search had created a vacuum for bitter verbal attacks from Trump and his allies, and that the public had a claim to the FBI’s side, prompting action Monday at the former president’s home.
“The public’s clear and strong interest in understanding what happened under these circumstances speaks strongly in favor of unsealing,” said a motion filed Thursday in Florida federal court.
If the warrant is released, he could reveal unflattering information about Trump and the FBI investigation into his handling of sensitive government documents as he prepares for another White House candidacy. During his successful 2016 campaign, he frequently referenced an FBI investigation into his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton into whether she mishandled classified information.
It is unclear at this point how much information would be contained in the documents if released, or whether they would include an FBI affidavit that would presumably provide a detailed factual basis for the search. The department specifically requested that the warrant be unsealed along with a title receipt detailing the items seized, along with two unspecified appendices.
To obtain a search warrant, federal authorities must demonstrate to a judge that there is probable cause to believe that a criminal offense has been committed. Garland said he personally approved the warrant, a decision he says the department did not take lightly because standard practice is to use less intrusive tactics than a home search whenever possible.
In this case, according to a person familiar with the matter, there was significant engagement with Trump and his representatives prior to the search warrant, including a subpoena and a visit to Mar-a-Lago by the FBI and Justice Department officials a few months ago. to assess how the documents were preserved. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Neither Trump nor the FBI said anything about what documents the FBI may have seized or what exactly agents were looking for.
Trump, who has berated the FBI for years and tried to sow distrust among his supporters in its decisions, said the warrant was served and the search was conducted despite his cooperation with the Justice Department on the search.
In a post on his Truth Social platform, Trump said his “lawyers and representatives fully cooperated prior to the search” and that government officials “could have whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, if we had it.”
FBI and Department of Justice guidelines warn against discussing ongoing investigations, both to protect the integrity of the investigation and to avoid unfairly defaming someone who is being investigated but is ultimately not charged. This is particularly true in the case of search warrants, where supporting court documents are routinely kept secret during investigations.
In this case, however, Garland cited the fact that Trump himself had provided the first public confirmation of the FBI search “as is his right.” The Justice Department also said in its new filing that disclosing information about it now would not affect the functioning of the court.
Even so, in a hastily planned public statement issued at the Justice Department, Garland appeared to acknowledge the unusual nature of the Department’s request, as he declined to answer questions or provide significant details about the FBI’s investigation.
“Much of our work is, of necessity, done in camera. We’re doing this to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans and the integrity of our investigations,” he said. “Federal law, longstanding departmental rules, and our ethical obligations prevent me from providing further details on the basis of the search at this time.”
The Justice Department under Garland has been wary of public statements about politically charged investigations or confirmation of the extent to which it could probe Trump as part of a broader probe into the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol and efforts to quash the findings of the 2020 election.
The department has sought to avoid interfering in presidential politics, as happened in 2016 when then-FBI Director James Comey made an unusual public statement announcing that the FBI would not pursue criminal charges against Clinton for her dealings with would recommend emails – and when he took the floor again a little over a week before the election to inform Congress that the probe had effectively been reopened due to the discovery of new emails.
The search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, served Monday, was part of an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the discovery of classified White House records seized at Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Fla., earlier this year. The National Archives had asked the department to investigate after saying 15 boxes of records it retrieved from the estate contained secret records. Several federal laws regulate the handling of classified information.
The Attorney General also condemned verbal abuse of FBI and Justice Department employees over the search. Some of Trump’s Republican allies have called for the FBI to be defunded. A large number of Trump supporters have called for the warrant to be released, hoping it would show Trump was unfairly attacked.
“I will not stand by in silence when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” Garland said of federal law enforcement officers, calling them “dedicated, patriotic officers.”
Earlier Thursday, a gunman wearing a body armor attempted to breach a security checkpoint at an FBI field office in Ohio, then fled and was later killed after a standoff with law enforcement. A law enforcement official with knowledge of the matter identified the man as Ricky Shiffer and said he was believed to have been in Washington in the days before the Capitol attack and may have been there on the day it took place.
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Lindsay Whitehurst, and Meg Kinnard contributed to this report.
https://www.king5.com/article/news/nation-world/trump-warrant/507-89e45c04-97f9-46c5-9261-ea4a3bcf26c3 Will the Mar-a-Lago warrant be unsealed?