The US Department of Justice is asking a Florida court to unseal the warrant that let FBI agents search former President Donald Trump’s home.
If granted, the request would make the documents available to the public.
Attorney General Merrick Garland also revealed he personally approved the warrant, which was executed at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property on Monday.
The justice department has so far not revealed the reason for the search – but the unsealed warrant could.
Mr Trump has until Friday to object to the unsealing – or could release details of the warrant himself.
Monday’s FBI search is believed to be connected to an investigation into whether the former president removed classified records and sensitive material from the White House.
Until now, the justice department has followed its normal practice of remaining silent during an investigation – and documents such as search warrants traditionally remain sealed during a pending investigation.
But Mr Garland said he was asking a court to make documents connected to the search warrant publicly available, in the public interest.
He said his decision was also influenced by Mr Trump publicly announcing the search had taken place.
“The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favour of unsealing,” Justice Department lawyers said in a motion filed in federal court on Thursday.
Monday’s search was the first time in American history that a former president’s home has been searched as part of a criminal investigation. It was condemned by Mr Trump and other Republicans as politically motivated .
But speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Mr Garland defended FBI agents and justice department officials from the accusations.
“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” Mr Garland told reporters.
He also said the decision to search was not taken lightly. “Where possible it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means,” he said.
In a statement on Thursday the former president said his team was “cooperating fully” with the with federal investigators.
Garland fights back
There was no detail in Merrick Garland’s press conference about what the search warrant contained, what was found, or whether it was – as media reports have suggested – an inside Trump source that provided the FBI with the key information.
But not nothing either. The attorney general revealed he had personally authorised the search warrant. And he said that the DOJ is seeking a court order to have the warrant and the list of items taken from Mar-a-Lago made public.
Prosecutors don’t tend to reveal their cards in public during an ongoing investigation – something Mr Garland made clear was for good reason.
But the accusations from the Republican movement – and from Donald Trump himself, of course – that the department is being weaponised by the Democrats, have been damaging.
And without any formal statement, it’s a narrative that’s been left largely unchallenged.
This was Mr Garland insisting that far from being an assault on the law, the search was the law taking its proper course.
Trump records probe timeline
- January 2022 – The National Archives retrieves 15 boxes of White House records from Mar-a-Lago, and says some of the documents it received at the end of Trump administration had been torn up
- February – Reports emerge that classified files were found in the Mar-a-Lago cache and National Archives has asked DoJ to investigate
- April – US media report the FBI has begun a preliminary investigation into how allegedly classified material ended up at Mar-a-Lago
- 3 June – A senior DoJ official and three FBI agents travel to Mar-a-Lago to review the items in a basement and Mr Trump drops by to say hello, according to reports
- 8 June – Federal investigators reportedly write to a Trump aide to request a stronger lock be used to secure the room storing the items in question. Trump says that request was quickly fulfilled
- 22 June – The Trump Organization reportedly receives a DoJ legal summons for CCTV footage from Mar-a-Lago
- 8 August – Dozens of agents execute a search warrant of Mar-a-Lago, removing about 10 boxes from the property
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