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.
In a rare public statement, days after the FBI’s early morning raid on Trump’s private residence in Palm Beach, Florida.
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.”
Fox News reported earlier Thursday that Trump’s office received a grand jury subpoena this spring for classified documents he allegedly took from the White House when he left office in 2021. A source close to Trump told Fox News that the former president cooperated with the subpoena by turning over documents to the FBI.
According to the source, a subpoena was issued to a “custodian of the president,” and was related to the materials that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) was trying to collect after claiming Trump improperly took those classified records with him from Washington D.C. to Mar-a-Lago.
The source close to Trump told Fox News that Trump has been cooperating in the investigation into the NARA records for a year.
On June 3, the FBI visited Mar-a-Lago to retrieve the requested documents in the subpoena, which Trump complied with, the source told Fox News.
Those investigators toured the area of the Florida resort where some documents were stored, then briefly viewed and took custody of a small amount of potentially sensitive material. Separate sources told Fox News that federal investigators had spoken with at least one person who relayed the possibility of more sensitive national security material in that storage room and other areas of the property.
FBI officials, that day, asked to see a storage facility where the records were located. The FBI asked that staff put a lock on the storage room, which they later did.
This source said Trump and his staff were, and are, committed to being in compliance with the Presidential Records Act, which requires presidential administrations to preserve certain documents.
Trump received that subpoena two months prior to the FBI’s unprecedented raid on a former president of the United States’ private residence—which took place early Monday morning.
The source questioned whether the federal magistrate judge who signed off on the warrant for the FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago Monday was aware of Trump’s “past compliance with the subpoena,” adding that, if the FBI was looking for additional documents, another subpoena could have been issued, as Trump and his team were “cooperative” and turned over documents and records responsive to the subpoena issued in the spring.
Sources also told Fox News that Trump’s staff have been interviewed by the FBI with regard to the NARA investigation over the last several months.
The FBI interviewed Trump aides, including White House staff who moved boxes from the White House, administrative staff, and others who helped to organize Trump’s departure from the Oval Office, and questioned those individuals on what they were involved in moving.
“The reality is, you talk to anyone part of an administration and leaving the White House and they will tell you it is always a chaotic thing,” the source said, adding that it is “not surprising” records “came that should have stayed,” and it is “not unusual for NARA and former administration officials to be in communications about documents and whether or not they should have left the White House or stayed behind.”
Investigators also spoke to at least one witness about the existence of sensitive material remaining in the Mar-a-Lago basement. Those sources would not characterize that person as an “informant” or the information received as a “tip.”
Fox News has also learned that a separate subpoena was later issued seeking information about surveillance cameras to determine who may have had access to the storage room.
It is unclear what developed in recent weeks for investigators to move for more documents, to Monday’s FBI search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, but some sources said communications between both sides had become increasingly strained.
Sources close to the former president, though, maintain they were cooperating with the investigation and with all document requests.
Meanwhile, another source familiar with the raid told Fox News the warrant for the raid Monday was related to the NARA effort to collect records and materials the former president took with him from Washington, D.C., to Mar-a-Lago.
“There is no need for any of this,” the source said, adding the FBI “wouldn’t let the attorneys come in to watch the raid. They told them to leave.”