Sunday, Mar 26, 2023

Justice Department asks a federal court to unseal warrant used to search Mar-A-Lago

Justice Department asks a federal court to unseal warrant used to search Mar-A-Lago

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Department of Justice has asked a federal court in Florida to unseal the search warrant served at former President Donald Trump's Mar-A-Lago residence three days ago, as well as a property receipt for what was taken.

Garland made remarks Thursday afternoon at a press conference from the Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C., the first time the agency has commented on the search since it took place.

"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. A property receipt is a document left with the property owner after a search like this take's place.

He also said he personally approved the decision to seek that search warrant, one that the department did not make lightly, he added.

"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," Garland said.

He did not provide any further details about the nature of the search or other DOJ matters but he said more information would be made available.

Trump now has the next move

In order for the motion to unseal the search warrant and property receipt to proceed, Trump has the opportunity to respond and object. The federal judge in Florida has ordered the government to give the filing to Trump immediately. Trump has until 3 p.m. on Friday to advise the court if he will object to the motion.

According to the court filing, the Justice Department calls for the unsealing of the documents given the heightened public interest in the case, but it makes clear that the former president should have the opportunity to say he has "legitimate privacy interests" that could cause harm if they are made public.

Trump said in a social media post shared after Garland's remarks that he and his attorneys had been cooperating with authorities and said, "the government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it." He did not indicate whether he would oppose the motion to unseal the documents related to Monday's search.

In his statement Monday night, Trump said that his home at Mar-A-Lago was "under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents." He also said they opened his safe.

His son, Eric Trump, told Fox News that federal authorities had given him a heads up that the search was about to take place on Monday morning and he informed his father. Trump claimed in his social media post Thursday that there was no warning that agents were coming. Trump was at his residence in Manhattan the search took place.

Garland blasted critics who have attacked the FBI

In his remarks, the DOJ head also blasted what he called "unfounded" attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents.

"I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked," Garland said.

Garland's remarks come just hours after a suspect breached an FBI field office in Cincinnati.

Earlier in the day, the FBI field office in Cincinnati said the subject fled north onto Interstate 71 after an alarm went off and FBI special agents responded.

The FBI, Ohio State Highway Patrol, and local law enforcement agencies are on the scene near Wilmington, Ohio, "trying to resolve this critical incident," a tweet from the bureau said.

According to Brian O'Hare, president of the FBI Agents Association, threats made against the FBI "contribute to an atmosphere where some have, or will, accept violence against law enforcement as appropriate. It is not.

"This is not a partisan or political issue. It is a matter of public safety and basic decency," O'Hare said. "Calls for violence against law enforcement are unacceptable, and should be condemned by all leaders."

Garland is also facing criticism from GOP leaders

Garland himself has already faced criticism from top ranking Republicans.

"The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement after Trump publicized the search took place.

McCarthy said if the GOP wins the House in the midterm elections, there would be oversight of the department, and he told Garland, "preserve your documents and clear your calendar."

Trump, in his Monday statement, also blamed political motivation for the search, saying it happened because of his potential to run for president again in 2024.

But President Biden and White House officials found out about the FBI search from media reports, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday.

"The president was not briefed, was not aware of it. No one at the White House was given a heads up," Jean-Pierre said, adding that the DOJ conducts their investigations independently.

A White House official also said Thursday that Biden did not have an advance notice that Garland was making comments today, and learned about them from media reports.


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