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 of premises located in Florida belonging to the former president.
Merrick Garland and the DOJ looking to unseal the search warrant
The department’s filing also says, “the public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing.”
Well, the Justice Department wanted to give Donald Trump a chance to object, and the judge is apparently going to let that happen. The judge has set the deadline for 3 p.m. Friday, so the wheels of justice move kind of slowly. I suppose there’s an outside chance we might be able to see something tomorrow, but maybe it’ll wait till next week.
So what the Justice Department wants to release, wants to ask the court to release, are two things – the search warrant itself, which describes the address and a little bit more information, and then the property receipt or inventory. That’s what the FBI gave Trump’s lawyer documenting what they took out of Mar-a-Lago – bunches and bunches of boxes earlier this week.
The real secrets lie in the affidavit not the search warrant
Now, we may get some sense of what laws the DOJ thinks may have been broken, and what kinds of things they’re investigating. But the mother lode of secrets, really, is in something called the affidavit. DOJ has not asked for that to be released, and I don’t think President – former President Trump will want that released either. So we’re going to see some things, but not the mother lode.
Garland also said in his statement that he not only knew about the search warrant ahead of time but also was the one to sign off on it.
We heard Attorney General Merrick Garland say all the time he wants to follow the facts and the law. He wants everybody to have a fair shot at justice. And he wants the Justice Department to speak in court, not at a press conference. But in some ways, he was pressed to say something, in part because former President Trump told the whole world about the search on Monday night. And then Republicans in Congress, including some leaders like Kevin McCarthy in the House, have been pressing the Justice Department to say more and repeating baseless things, and conspiracies about the nature of this investigation.
Garland came out and defended the process
Finally, you know, there’s been a lot of speculation out there about the reason for this investigation and the basis for it. And Garland, I think, thought now is the time to say what we can, given the intense public interest.
I think that line, standard practice to seek less intrusive means, is a really important piece of the political puzzle here as we’re looking at this. Because there’s been a lot of pressure on Garland to say more here because there’s been such an attack on the right, jumping to conclusions about the Justice Department playing politics. And, you know, Garland had to come out and not only defend his agents, but defend their process.
And we have no idea what they got. We have no idea what they were exactly looking for. But this was a step forward in figuring out some of that, but also politically changing the narrative here a little bit and putting the ball more in Trump’s court now because, again, this motion that they filed said that they want this released, “absent objection from former President Trump.” So in other words, you want it out there, you want people to know what it is, then you can approve it or not.
The search of the residence of a former president is unprecedented
Something like this is the unprecedented search of the residence of a former president of the United States. So just in terms of common sense and the way Washington works generally, you would imagine that the highest levels of the Justice Department and the FBI would want to take a look at this application to make sure it was pristine, legally and otherwise, right? And also because, for a long time now, the Justice Department has had guidelines in place involving politically sensitive investigations. Donald Trump has been a candidate in the past. He may well be a candidate again soon for president in 2024. And the DOJ tends to want the highest levels of the Justice Department to approve any steps in an investigation or an inquiry that would involve somebody at that level.
And by the way, it used to be a common understanding that threats of violence were not a partisan or a political issue, you know? We have a statement this afternoon from the FBI Agents Association saying this is a matter of public safety and basic decency. You should not be threatening public officials or law enforcement officials. It’s just the wrong thing to do.
What has Trump said about the raid on Mar-A-Lago
He put out a statement on Truth Social where he said, my attorneys and representatives were cooperating fully, and very good relationships had been established. The government could have had whatever they wanted if we had it. Now, that’s different than obviously what we’re being told by the Justice Department because they’re saying they wouldn’t have taken this kind of extraordinary step if they were getting the information that they wanted.
The White House didn’t know Garland was going to speak. They have also said that the president learned about the search of Mar-a-Lago when the rest of the public did. This has not stopped the former president from alleging that this is politically motivated. Did Garland today blunt that message for Trump and his allies?
I think in some respects, yes, because they – you know, he needed to be able to, you know, kind of put the ball back in Trump’s court here to say, look, we’re happy to release more information, but the former president has to be able to approve that. Now, you want the information out there, then go ahead and allow it to be out there. We have nothing to hide.
And that’s kind of what he’s trying to say there – to say, look, you can’t just throw out all these allegations and make politics of something that, really, he’s trying to say has nothing to do with politics. But, you know, there’s not going to be convincing, you know, the legions of people who follow President Trump as long as former President Trump is continuing to say that what’s being said is false. I mean, how many millions of people has he convinced that an election was stolen that wasn’t?