Trump calls for release of search warrant documents used in raid
Former President Donald Trump said he supported the release of documents related to the FBI’s search of his Mar-a-Lago home earlier this week, including a copy of the search warrant and a receipt of items that agents took from the property.
Trump made the announcement late Thursday on his social media site, Truth Social, following a Justice Department request in a Florida court to unseal the documents.
“Not only will I not oppose the release of documents related to the un-American, unwarranted, and unnecessary raid and break-in of my home in Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago, I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents,” Trump said in the post.
Trump’s decision to agree to release the search warrant -- something he has had the option of doing on his own since the search took place Monday -- heads off a public showdown between the former president’s legal team and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The Justice Department has a long-standing policy against speaking publicly about pending investigations, but Garland on Thursday took the unusual step of announcing that he’d “personally approved” the search, which Trump had originally announced after it was underway.
Federal agents searched Trump’s Florida residence as part of an investigation into whether the former president was unlawfully holding onto presidential records that were supposed to go to the National Archives once he left office, including potentially classified materials, according to people familiar with the matter.
On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that one category of documents the FBI was looking for related to nuclear weapons. It wasn’t clear if those were about US weapons or weapons that belonged to another country, and if they were among the documents agents seized.
Mishandling classified information can carry an array of federal felony charges, and information related to nuclear weapons and technology is uniquely sensitive. The head of the Justice Department’s counter-intelligence and export control section, Jay Bratt, signed the government’s filing seeking to unseal the warrant and reportedly visited Mar-a-Lago earlier this summer to review the documents in Trump’s possession.
In seeking to share the search warrant documents with the public, DOJ officials explained they no longer believed that the typical reasons applied for keeping this information under seal -- to ensure there was no interference with the search and keep a pending investigation secret. The DOJ lawyers noted that the search was now in the past, and Trump and his supporters had publicised information about it.
“The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favour of unsealing,” the Justice Department said in the filing.
In order to carry out the search at Mar-a-Lago, prosecutors had to present an application for approval to a federal magistrate judge. The judge would have to find that the government presented enough information that there was probable cause that the search would turn up evidence related to criminal activity; it doesn’t mean the judge found proof that any particular person had committed a crime.
The Justice Department asked US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who sits in West Palm Beach, Florida, specifically to unseal a copy of the search warrant -- which would include information about the general scope of the search and might contain information about the specific federal crimes under investigation -- and a receipt that FBI agents left listing the items they took from the property. A release of these documents wouldn’t include a copy of an affidavit that prosecutors would typically file laying out a fuller narrative of the potential criminal conduct at issue.
Reinhart acted swiftly, immediately ordering DOJ to consult with Trump and his lawyers and notify the court within 24 hours about whether Trump would oppose the request.
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