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US Justice Department moves to make Trump’s Mar-a-Lago search warrant public

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Former US president Donald Trump waves before attending a deposition in a New York civil case./AFP
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Aug 12, 2022 - 03:23 AM

WASHINGTON (AA) – The US Justice Department asked a federal court in the state of Florida to make public the search warrant used to carry out an FBI raid earlier this week on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday.

Garland said he “personally approved” the decision to seek a search warrant, emphasizing the Justice Department “does not take such decision lightly.” The warrant was approved by a court based on probable cause, he said.

The FBI searched Trump’s southern Florida property Monday with his attorney “on-site,” said Garland.

In addition to the warrant, the agency asked the court in the Southern District of Florida to unseal what is known as a property receipt which was given to the property owner to identify items that were taken from the premises. Garland said the department moved to unseal the warrant and property receipt due to the “substantial public interest in this matter.”

The department had refrained from publicly commenting on the search, a common practice Garland defended, saying “we do that to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans and to protect the integrity of our investigations.”

“Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and of our democracy. Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor. Under my watch, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing,” Garland told reporters at the department. He did not take questions.

Trump and his Republican allies have sought to frame the raid as a politically-motivated attack, charges Garland dismissed as he defended “the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents and prosecutors.”

“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked. The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated patriotic public servants,” he said. “Every day they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism and other threats to their safety while safeguarding our civil rights. They do so at great personal sacrifice and risk to themselves.”

The US National Archives and Records Administration retrieved 15 boxes of White House documents in January from Mar-a-Lago, which should have been turned over to the agency when Trump left the White House.

The Archives later notified Congress that the boxes contained “items marked as classified national security information.”​​​​​​​

It is not clear if a judge will accept the move to unseal the warrant and property receipt, or when a decision might be reached.

In June, federal investigators served Trump with a grand jury subpoena and seized “sensitive national security documents” from Mar-a-Lago, CNN reported. Monday’s search was executed because the FBI had evidence, including from an eyewitness, that additional materials remained at the exclusive club and ex-presidential residence in Palm Beach, Florida.

Trump said on his social media platform that his attorneys were “cooperating fully” with investigators and had developed “very good relationships” with Justice Department officials.

Former Justice Department prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told NPR that Garland “called Donald Trump’s bluff” by moving to unseal the warrant after the former president publicly revealed the search and said that if it is unsealed, the public will learn what crimes are being investigated and what was found during the search.

“That should be very helpful in identifying for the public that there was material there, and presumably it will be material of a classified nature that Donald Trump was not entitled to have in his possession. And that really is the key question, which is why Donald Trump had classified information as a private citizen in his premises and didn’t return it,” he said.

“We will certainly learn a lot more than we know now,” he added.

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