The move, if approved by a Florida judge, promises to reveal fresh details about what prompted federal officers to retrieve documents from Trump’s property—including what they were seeking and why it was necessary to dispatch dozens of FBI agents to Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday to stage an unprecedented search of a former president’s residence.
The move was announced on Thursday by Attorney General Merrick Garland in brief remarks.
“I personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter,” Garland said.
Garland gave few details during his appearance, but suggested the search was vitally important.
“The department does not take such a decision lightly,” Garland said. “Where possible, it is standard practice to seek less-intrusive means as an alternative to a search.”
The DOJ filed a request with a court in South Florida to unseal the warrant, along with a property receipt listing the items received pursuant to the search and attachments that contain additional information.
The motion filed by the Justice Department gives Trump the opportunity to object.
South Florida Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart issued an order immediately following Garland’s press conference that appeared to set the stage for a speedy release of the documents, unless Trump tries to shut it down.
Judge Reinhart gave the Justice Department until 3 p.m. EST on Friday to speak to Trump’s lawyers and inform the court whether Trump’s team agrees that the search-related filings can be unsealed.
The search of Trump’s golf club and residence has become a rallying cry for Trump supporters who see the former president as a victim of law enforcement officers driven by anti-Trump bias. Trump and his allies have raised the conspiracy theory that agents might have planted incriminating items among the boxes removed from Mar-a-Lago during their search, without presenting any proof that this actually happened.
The public release of the warrant and property list may serve to counter some of these accusations—by showing why federal officials thought the search was necessary and that it was carried out by the book.
Earlier on Thursday, the New York Times reported that sources briefed on the documents described them as related to national security, and so sensitive in nature that officials decided to act quickly.
Garland said the search warrant was authorized by a federal court, and that Trump’s team has a copy of the documents.
“Copies of both the warrant and the FBI property receipt were provided on the day of the search to the former president’s counsel who was on site during the search,” Garland said.
In its filing with the Florida judge, the Justice Department said one reason to unseal the warrant was that Trump’s attorney had already talked about the event and the materials gathered by the FBI publicly.
The request quoted a New York Times article that said: “Christina Bobb, a lawyer and aide to Mr. Trump who said she received a copy of the search warrant, told one interviewer that the agents were looking for ‘presidential records or any possibly classified material.’”
The department continued: “As such, the occurrence of the search and indications of the subject matter involved are already public.”
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