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Trump says he will not oppose the release of documents tied to the Mar-a-Lago search

Attorney General Merrick Garland made remarks Thursday regarding the FBI search of former President Trump's Florida home that took place earlier this week.
Susan Walsh
/
AP
Attorney General Merrick Garland made remarks Thursday regarding the FBI search of former President Trump's Florida home that took place earlier this week.

Updated August 12, 2022 at 12:19 AM ET

Former President Donald Trump posted on his social media platform late Thursday night that he will not oppose the release of documents related to the search of Mar-a-Lago by federal investigators. He added that he encourages "the immediate release of those documents."

In his posting, Trump goes on to attack the investigation in political terms as he has since he revealed it on Monday. Trump's attorneys had been given copies of the documents and the former president could release them at any time if he chooses to.

A federal judge in Florida had given the Justice Department until Friday afternoon to confer with Trump's attorneys and advise the court as to whether Trump objects to the release of the warrant authorizing the search on Monday and the property receipt for what was taken.

Earlier Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Department of Justice has asked a federal court in Florida to unseal the search warrant served at Trump's Mar-A-Lago residence three days ago, as well as a property receipt for what was taken.

Garland made remarks Thursday afternoon at a news conference from the Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C., the first time the agency has commented on the search since it took place.

"Both the warrant and the FBI property receipt were provided on the day of the search to the former president's counsel, who was on site during the search," Garland said. A property receipt is a document left with the property owner after a search like this takes place.

He also said he personally approved the decision to seek that search warrant, one that the department did not make lightly, he added.

"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," Garland said.

He did not provide any further details about the nature of the search or other DOJ matters but he said more information would be made available.

Trump now has the next move

In order for the motion to unseal the search warrant and property receipt to proceed, Trump was given the opportunity to respond and object. The federal judge in Florida had ordered the government to give the filing to Trump immediately and set the deadline for a possible objection to 3 p.m. on Friday.

According to the court filing, the Justice Department calls for the unsealing of the documents given the heightened public interest in the case, but it makes clear that the former president should be given the opportunity to say whether he has "legitimate privacy interests" that could cause harm if they are made public.

Trump said in a social media post shared after Garland's remarks that he and his attorneys had been cooperating with authorities and said, "the government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it." He did not indicate whether he would oppose the motion to unseal the documents related to Monday's search.

In his statement Monday night, Trump said that his home at Mar-A-Lago was "under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents." He also said they opened his safe.

His son, Eric Trump, told Fox News that federal authorities had given him a heads up that the search was about to take place on Monday morning and he informed his father. Trump claimed in his social media post Thursday that there was no warning that agents were coming. Trump was at his residence in Manhattan when the search took place.

What to expect to learn from the documents if they're unsealed

The documents, according to Andrew Weissmann, a former Justice Department prosecutor, would likely provide details on the crimes that are being investigated, where agents could and could not search, and a list of what was found.

"It won't be document by document but that should be helpful in identifying for the public that there was material there," he said.

The underlying affidavit would offer more detail, Weissmann told NPR's All Things Considered, though it does not appear to not be among the documents that the Justice Department is seeking to have unsealed. The affidavit, from an FBI agent swearing under oath, would also lay out the probable cause for the search warrant.

"We won't, without that underlying affidavit, get all the answers that I think everyone is looking for," he said.

Garland blasted critics who have attacked the FBI

In his remarks, the DOJ head also blasted what he called "unfounded" attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents.

"I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked," Garland said.

Garland's remarks come just hours after a suspect breached an FBI field office in Cincinnati.

Earlier in the day, the FBI field office in Cincinnati said the subject fled north onto Interstate 71 after an alarm went off and FBI special agents responded.

Hours later, law enforcement officials shot and killed the suspect after a standoff, member station WVXU reported, and there is an ongoing investigation.

FBI Director Christopher Wray was critical of the attacks on those who work in the agency.

"Unfounded attacks on the integrity of the FBI erode respect for the rule of law and are a grave disservice to the men and women who sacrifice so much to protect others," Wray said in a statement. "Violence and threats against law enforcement, including the FBI, are dangerous and should be deeply concerning to all Americans."

According to Brian O'Hare, president of the FBI Agents Association, threats made against the FBI "contribute to an atmosphere where some have, or will, accept violence against law enforcement as appropriate. It is not."

"This is not a partisan or political issue. It is a matter of public safety and basic decency," O'Hare said. "Calls for violence against law enforcement are unacceptable, and should be condemned by all leaders."

Garland is also facing criticism from GOP leaders

Garland himself has already faced criticism from top ranking Republicans.

"The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement after Trump publicized the search took place.

McCarthy said if the GOP wins the House in the midterm elections, there would be oversight of the department, and he told Garland, "preserve your documents and clear your calendar."

Trump, in his Monday statement, also blamed political motivation for the search, saying it happened because of his potential to run for president again in 2024.

But President Biden and White House officials found out about the FBI search from media reports, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday.

"The president was not briefed, was not aware of it. No one at the White House was given a heads up," Jean-Pierre said, adding that the DOJ conducts their investigations independently.

A White House official also said Thursday that Biden did not have advanced notice that Garland was making comments today, and learned about them from media reports.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.
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