Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday that he signed off on the FBI raid of former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida, but provided few more details other than to announce that the Justice Department had asked a court to unseal the search warrant.
“I personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this manner,” Garland told reporters in reading from a prepared statement, adding: “The Department does not take such a decision lightly. Where possible, it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search and narrowly scope any search that is undertaken.”
The attorney general did not explain why standard practice wasn’t possible in Trump’s case.
The Justice Department earlier Thursday filed a motion in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida to unseal the search warrant used by the FBI to raid Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate Monday.
President Joe Biden, who defeated Trump in the 2020 election, appointed Garland as attorney general; the former federal judge had been nominated unsuccessfully to the Supreme Court in 2016 by President Barack Obama. Trump has hinted that he would run again for president in 2024, which could mean a rematch with Biden.
Garland, speaking for just under four minutes Thursday afternoon, said he would let public court documents speak to specifics of the Trump raid. The attorney general declined to take questions from reporters, after noting that such investigations typically are conducted outside the public eye.
The Justice Department also asked the federal court in Florida to release the property receipt, Garland said, referring to a document listing what was seized that law enforcement agents are required to leave with a property owner after a search.
The Justice Department asked the federal court for a “redacted Property Receipt listing items seized pursuant to the search.” A redaction could be necessary if the information sought were classified.
“The department filed a motion to make public the warrant and receipt in light of the former president’s public acknowledgment of the search and the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter,” Garland said.
Garland’s announcement Thursday came after a federal judge ordered the Justice Department to respond by next Monday to a lawsuit over the search filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group.
“Judicial Watch legal pressure forced this important first step by the Biden Justice Department to disclose Attorney General Garland’s role in the abusive Trump raid and other urgent information to the American people,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a written statement.
“It remains to be seen exactly what documents are ultimately released about this unprecedented, reckless, and dangerous raid on the home of former President Trump,” Fitton said.
Initial media reports suggested the FBI raid pertained to the Presidential Records Act and potentially classified information taken from the White House to Trump’s Florida home after he left office in January 2021.
However, the unprecedented FBI raid of a former president’s home came after suggestions of a potential prosecution in relation to a House special committee’s investigation of the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
Garland said in his brief remarks that Trump’s lawyers were privy to the basis of the search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago while Trump was in New York.
“The former president 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 onsite during the search.”
Garland, repeating a familiar sentiment, said the Justice Department is “applying the law without fear or favor.”
“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,” Garland said.
The search of a former president’s home drew immediate criticism from Republican lawmakers, who argued that it violated norms and vowed accountability from the Justice Department. That agency already has weathered criticism from its own Office of Inspector General for past probes of Trump while he was in office.
Speaking to reporters, Garland defended the actions of the department he leads.
“The men and women at the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated, patriotic, public servants,” Garland said. “Every day, they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism, and other threats to their safety while safeguarding our civil rights.”
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Author: Fred Lucas