It is possible that the extraordinary search of the former president’s home will soon be made public, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday. The Justice Department has requested a Florida judge to unseal the warrant FBI agents used to search his Mar-a-Lago home this week.
During his first public remarks since Monday’s search, Mr. Garland said he approved the decision to seek a search warrant. Mr. Garland added that the department does not take such a decision lightly.
Based on Mr. Trump’s confirmation that the search took place and the “substantial public interest” in the case, Garland filed the motion to unseal both the warrant and the receipt listing the items seized.
In response to the Justice Department’s request, Mr. Trump’s lawyers will have time to raise objections to the unsealing before a decision is reached. The warrant and items taken during the search were provided to Mr. Trump.
The search climaxed a months-long investigation into Trump’s handling of classified information, leading to Monday’s search of his Mar-a-Lago home and social club. Republican lawmakers demanded an explanation for the unprecedented search of an ex-president’s home while Trump was in New York.
Mr. Trump and his allies have criticized it as a politically motivated stunt.
Mr. Garland said he wouldn’t stand by silently when their integrity was unfairly attacked, asserting that the FBI and Justice Department are dedicated public servants daily.
A court filing by the Justice Department argued for the warrant’s release. According to Justice Department lawyers, the public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what happened weighs heavily in favor of unsealing.
Neither the Justice Department nor the FBI commented on the search before Thursday’s remarks, citing a longstanding practice not to discuss ongoing investigations.
Separately, people familiar with the investigation confirmed Thursday that the Justice Department subpoenaed Mr. Trump for classified documents he failed to turn over earlier this year. According to officials, federal prosecutors attempted to retrieve the national-security information using less aggressive methods before Monday’s search. It was reported earlier by the conservative website Just the News that the subpoena had been issued.
People familiar with the matter said agents searched Mar-a-Lago on Monday because they believed more classified material remained there after the National Archives retrieved more than a dozen boxes of White House documents earlier this year.
Another person said the agents hauled away roughly ten more boxes after that. People who have seen it say the warrant refers to the Presidential Records Act and possible violations of laws regarding classified data.
Trump, who has been discussing his presidential records with federal officials for months, says the search is unnecessarily intrusive and part of a long-running Democratic campaign against him.
According to someone familiar with the meeting, several FBI agents and a senior Justice Department, national-security supervisor visited Mr. Trump’s legal team on June 3 at Mar-a-Lago. The former president’s lawyers handed over a number of sensitive documents.
On Thursday, Mr. Trump’s spokesman declined to comment further.
Since the meeting at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump has portrayed himself as cooperative, including installing a bigger lock on a storage closet holding boxes of documents. According to officials, investigators obtained surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago as well.