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Thursday, Apr 18, 2024

DOJ asks court to unseal Mar-a-Lago raid warrant; AG Merrick Garland personally signed off on Trump search

In a rare public statement, days after the FBI's early morning raid on Trump's private residence in Palm Beach, Florida Attorney General Merrick Garland said he "personally approved" the decision to seek a search warrant for former President Trump’s private residence at Mar-a-Lago, saying the Justice Department has filed a motion to unseal the search warrant and property receipt from the FBI's raid, amid "substantial public interest" in the matter, while defending the "integrity" of law enforcement officials.
The raid was related to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) effort to collect records and materials the former president took with him from Washington, D.C., to Mar-a-Lago--a matter the agency referred to the Justice Department.

"Since I became attorney general, I have made clear that the Department of Justice will speak through its court filings and its work just now," Garland said. "The Justice Department has filed a motion in the southern district of Florida to unseal a search warrant and property receipt relating to a court approved search that the FBI conducted earlier this week. That search was a premises located in Florida belonging to the former president."

Garland noted that the Justice Department did not make any public statements on the day of the search, but that Trump "publicly confirmed the search that evening, as is his right."

Garland said 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."

"The search warrant was authorized by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause," Garland said, adding that "the property receipt is a document that federal law requires law enforcement agents to leave with the property owner."

Garland said the Justice 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."

"Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of Justice Department and of our democracy," Garland said. "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."

"All Americans are entitled to the even-handed application of the law to due process of the law and to the presumption of innocence," Garland stressed.

Garland said that much of the department's work "is, by necessity, conducted out of the public eye."

"We do that to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans and to protect the integrity of our investigations," Garland explained. "Federal law, longstanding department rules and our ethical obligations prevent me from providing further details as to the basis of the search."

"At this time, there are, however, certain points I want you to know," Garland said.

"First, I personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter," Garland said.

"Second, 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 and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken."

Garland then addressed "recent unfounded attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents and prosecutors."

"I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked," he said. "The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated, patriotic public servants. 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."

"I am honored to work alongside them," Garland said. "This is all I can say right now. More information will be made available in the appropriate way and at the appropriate time."

The Justice Department filed the motion to unseal the warrant and receipt list in the Southern District of Florida.

"In these circumstances involving a search of the residence of a former President, the government hereby requests that the Court unseal the Notice of Filing and its attachment..absent objection by former President Trump," the DOJ motion states.

The notice, according to the motion, includes the search warrant signed and approved by the court on Aug. 5 and a redacted property receipt, listing the items "seized pursuant to the search."

"The press and the public enjoy a qualified right of access to criminal and judicial proceedings and the judicial records filed therein," the motion states, noting that the unsealing of the documents would not "impair court functions."

"The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing," the motion states, noting that Trump should have an opportunity to respond to the motion and "lodge objections, including with regard to any ‘legitimate privacy interests’ or the potential for other ‘injury’ if these materials are made public."

Trump, shortly after Garland's remarks, posted on his TRUTH Social account that his "attorneys and representatives were cooperating fully, and very good relationships had been established."

"The government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it," Trump wrote. "They asked us to put an additional lock on a certain area - DONE!"

"Everything was fine, better than that of most previous Presidents, and then, out of nowhere and with no warning, Mar-a-Lago was raided, at 6:30 in the morning, by VERY large numbers of agents, and even 'safecrackers,'" Trump continued. "They got way ahead of themselves."

He added: "Crazy!"
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