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."