Judge unseals Trump Mar-a-Lago search warrant

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Elise Hammond, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 9:10 p.m. ET, August 12, 2022
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9:08 a.m. ET, August 12, 2022

The US attorney general filed a motion to unseal the Mar-a-Lago search warrant. Here's what we know.

Attorney General Merrick Garland delivers a statement on Thursday.
Attorney General Merrick Garland delivers a statement on Thursday. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

US Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department has filed a motion requesting the search warrant and property receipt for former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago property be unsealed. Trump and his legal team now have until 3 p.m. ET on Friday to respond.

The news comes days after the FBI executed the search warrant as part of an investigation into the handling of presidential documents, some classified. Garland's remarks on Thursday follow days of silence from the Justice Department with regard to the search, as is the department’s normal practice for ongoing investigations. 

Some background on the investigation: The Justice Department inquiry is about documents that Trump removed from the White House as his term was ending in January 2021. Earlier this year, officials from the National Archives and Records Administration, known as NARA, recovered 15 boxes of presidential documents from Mar-a-Lago. Investigators subpoenaed NARA for access to the classified documents retrieved from the property in May 2022 and visited Trump's attorneys in June when they asked them to secure the room where the documents were. The search on Monday was an escalation of the investigation.

Here's what else you need to know:

  • About the warrant: Garland said the warrant for federal agents to search Trump's house was authorized by a federal court on Aug. 5 "upon the required finding of probable cause." He said copies of the warrant were given to Trump's attorneys who were at Mar-a-Lago when the search happened on Aug. 8.
  • Garland's decision: The attorney general said he "personally approved" the decision to seek a warrant for the FBI to search Mar-a-Lago. He said the department "does not take such a decision lightly."
  • What could be in the unsealed documents: CNN's legal analyst Elie Honig said the warrant typically will list logistical information: place to be searched, a general description of items to be searched for, the name of the judge, a deadline by which the DOJ has to execute the search. But it also sometimes has an attachment, which typically will list the laws that the DOJ has probable cause to believe were violated. The second document is the inventory or the receipt which describes the items that were removed.
  • Violent rhetoric: In his remarks, Garland also addressed "unfounded attacks on the Justice Department agents and prosecutors," in the wake of the search in Florida and an attempted breach of the FBI’s field office in Cincinnati on Thursday. FBI Director Christopher Wray sent a message to employees, saying their "safety and security" are a "primary concern."

8:37 a.m. ET, August 12, 2022

Trump's deadline to officially oppose the release of FBI documents is 3 p.m. ET today

In the intensifying legal battle, former President Donald Trump has until 3 p.m. ET today to officially signal whether he will contest US Attorney General Merrick Garland's move to release FBI documents over the search of his Mar-a-Lago residence.

In a statement on his Truth Social network late Thursday, Trump said he would not oppose the release of documents related to the "unAmerican, unwarranted and unnecessary raid and break-in" of his home.

He did not say exactly which documents he would be ready to see released.

The FBI search was legally authorized by a warrant approved by a judge who would have had to have found probable cause that a crime had been committed.

9:06 a.m. ET, August 12, 2022

Trump says he will not oppose release of documents related to FBI search on his Mar-a-Lago home

From CNN's Andrea Cambron

Former President Donald Trump waves while walking outside Trump Tower on Wednesday.
Former President Donald Trump waves while walking outside Trump Tower on Wednesday. (AFP/Getty Images/File)

Former President Donald Trump said in a late-night post on his Truth Social platform that he would not oppose the release of the documents related to the FBI search on his Mar-a-Lago home.

"Not only will I not oppose the release of documents related to the unAmerican, 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, even though they have been drawn up by radical left Democrats and possible future political opponents, who have a strong and powerful vested interest in attacking me," he wrote.
9:03 a.m. ET, August 12, 2022

FBI searched Trump's Mar-a-Lago for classified nuclear documents, The Washington Post reports

From CNN's Paul LeBlanc

An aerial view of Mar-a-Lago on Wednesday.
An aerial view of Mar-a-Lago on Wednesday. (Steve Helber/AP)

The FBI sought to locate classified documents related to nuclear weapons, among other items, when agents searched former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, this week, people familiar with the investigation told The Washington Post.  

The people did not offer additional details to the Post about "what type of information the agents were seeking" or whether any such documents were recovered, according to the paper.

The revelation adds key context to the Justice Department's extraordinary decision to search the home of a former president. 

As CNN previously reported, the criminal investigation started with concerns about missing documents raised by the National Archives, which made a criminal referral to the Justice Department upon discovering highly sensitive documents among the materials retrieved from Mar-a-Lago in January.

The 15 boxes contained some materials that were part of special access programs (SAP), a classification that includes protocols to significantly limit who would have access to the information, according to a source familiar with what the Archives discovered in the boxes. That led to FBI interviews with aides to grand jury subpoenas to this week's court-authorized search and seizure of documents. 

Though Attorney General Merrick Garland has declined to share specific details about the search, he said Thursday that he "personally approved" the decision to seek a warrant for the search of Trump's Florida home. 

Read more here.