President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is seen on Nov. 1, 2019 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the U.S. Department of Justice moved Thursday to release the search warrant a federal judge issued earlier this week that allowed federal agents to enter former President Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.
DOJ, Garland said, has filed a motion in the Southern District of Florida to unseal a search warrant and property receipt, which details items taken. The motion says that Trump, who issued a public statement about the search, and his lawyers should have an opportunity to object to the DOJ proposal.
“The department filed the 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 during a brief press conference, declining to take any questions.
Garland’s comments echoed the department’s motion itself, which cited the public interest in the matter and that Trump had already publicized the search. Further secrecy was therefore unneeded, the department said Thursday in a four-page brief.
Copies of the warrant and the FBI property receipt, Garland said, were given to Trump’s counsel, who was on site during the search.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart gave Trump’s attorneys until Friday at 3 p.m. ET to respond to the government’s motion.
The search of Trump’s property by the FBI has infuriated many Republican lawmakers, who have criticized federal law enforcement for confiscating the documents as well as Garland for not being more public about the investigation.
“The country deserves a thorough and immediate explanation of what led to the events of Monday,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement earlier this week. “Attorney General Garland and the Department of Justice should already have provided answers to the American people and must do so immediately.”
Garland said Thursday that he personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in the matter, and that the Justice Department “does not take such decisions 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,” he said.
Garland also rebuked the “recent unfounded attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents and prosecutors.”
Garland declined to provide any additional information or to answer reporters’ questions after giving the four-minute statement, saying “federal law, long-standing department rules and our ethical obligations prevent me from providing further details as to the basis of the search at this time.”
— Jacob Fischler contributed to this report.DOJ motion
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