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DOJ moves to unseal Trump Mar-a-Lago search warrant

Attorney General Merrick Garland said he personally approved the FBI search warrant of former President Donald Trump's south Florida home.

WASHINGTON (CN) — U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday that the Justice Department filed a motion to unseal the search warrant approved by a federal judge for the FBI's raid on former President Donald Trump's south Florida home, Mar-a-Lago.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the search on Monday, Garland said the Department of Justice "will speak through its court filings and its work."

"Just now, 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," he said during a press conference at DOJ headquarters in Washington.

The attorney general said the department filed the motion "in light of the former president's public confirmation with the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter."

"The department does not take the 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."

He also spoke out against "unfounded attacks on the professionalism" of FBI agents, DOJ prosecutors and other officials, whom he said "are dedicated, patriotic public servants."

"I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked," he said, referring to public scrutiny against officials over the raid. 

Echoing his sentiments, FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement on Thursday that, “unfounded attacks on the integrity of the FBI erode respect for the rule of law” and violence and threats “are dangerous and should be deeply concerning to all Americans.” 

Up until Thursday, the Justice Department refused to comment on the search that, “apparently attracted little or no public attention as it was taking place,” but stirred speculation over what FBI agents were looking for at the resort home of the 45th president. 

“In the days since, the search warrant and related materials have been the subject of significant interest and attention from news media organizations and other entities,” the motion states. 

The five-page motion seeks the search warrant approved by the court on Aug. 5, as well as a redacted “property receipt,” which lists what FBI agents seized from the former president’s resort home. 

“Given the intense public interest presented by a search of a residence of a former President, the government believes these factors favor unsealing … absent objection from the former President,” the motion states. 

Trump’s counsel was notified “at the time the warrant was initially executed,” according to the motion, which notes that, “although the government initially asked, and this Court agreed, to file the warrant … under seal, releasing those documents at this time would not ‘impair court functions,’” since the warrant has already been executed. 

Given Trump’s public statements about the search, coupled with his attorney, Christina Bobb, telling The New York Times that agents were searching for “presidential records or any possibly classified material,” the department argues the “occurrence of the search and indications of the subject matter involved are already public.” 

“The clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” the motion states. 

After the FBI raided Trump’s resort home on Monday, the D.C. Circuit ruled the following day that the House Ways and Means Committee can seize his tax returns from the IRS. 

Come Wednesday, the former president was sitting in front of New York Attorney General Letitia James for a deposition related to her office’s investigation of his tax returns that he claims to have invoked the Fifth Amendment for.  

As the former president mulls over Thursday's court filing, the Justice Department has until 3:00 p.m. EST on Friday to file a notice of conferral, which signals whether Trump’s counsel plans to object to the motion. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart is presiding over the matter.

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