WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice is moving to unseal the search warrant and itemized receipt of what was taken from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence earlier this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday in his first public comments since the FBI search was conducted.
It is extraordinarily unusual for the Justice Department to comment on an ongoing investigation, especially one involving such a high-profile person, and Garland did not take questions from reporters. The motion to unseal the warrant was filed as he spoke. The warrant can’t be unsealed without a judge’s approval.
Garland indicated he was driven to act due to misinformation that was circulating about the search.
“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.
The FBI did not disclose the daylong search of Trump’s Florida estate. Trump announced it had occurred in a statement that referred to the court-sanctioned search as a “raid,” inflaming many on the far right, who have accused the FBI and Justice Department of becoming politicized.
Trump will have an opportunity to contest making the warrant and list of recovered documents public. In its motion, the Justice Department proposed giving the former president until Aug. 25 to do so. Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart gave the department until 3 p.m. Eastern time Friday to report back on whether Trump’s legal team plans to contest unsealing the warrant.
Trump’s legal team has acknowledged having the warrant and receipt in its possession since Monday’s search, but has not provided specific details on the contents of the documents.
The Justice Department’s motion states that it is moving to unseal the information primarily because Trump has confirmed that the search occurred and because his lawyers have spoken publicly to reporters about what the FBI sought.
“This matter plainly ‘concerns public officials or public concerns’ ... as it involves a law enforcement action taken at the property of the 45th President of the United States,” the motion says. “The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing.”
Garland told reporters that the Justice Department prefers to speak through legal filings rather than public statements.