The U.S. Justice Department asked a federal court on Thursday to unseal a warrant used to search former president Donald Trump's home in Florida in connection with an investigation into Trump's handling of White House records.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the request, saying he had personally authorized the decision to seek the search warrant in connection with an ongoing investigation into Trump's handling of White House records.
In his first public comments about the controversial FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on Monday, Garland said the decision to unseal the search warrant as well as a property receipt given to Trump’s representatives was made after Trump publicly disclosed the search.
“The department decided to file the motion to make public the warrant and the receipt in light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter,” Garland said in a brief televised statement.
The search, during which FBI agents retrieved about a dozen boxes of documents related to Trump's presidency, has been condemned by Republicans as a weaponization of the Justice Department against the former president.
Saying the Justice Department “does not take such decisions lightly,” Garland indicated that the law enforcement agency was left with no other choice.
“Where possible, it has standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken,” Garland said.
Garland pushed back against Republican criticism of the Justice Department and the FBI for allegedly singling out the former president for political purposes.
“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” Garland said. “The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated, patriotic public servants.”
While Garland did not disclose any details of the investigation, sources familiar with the probe have said it is focused on Trump’s handling of White House documents.
The Washington Post reported late Thursday night, citing anonymous sources, that federal agents were looking for documents related to nuclear weapons in their search of Trump’s resort. It is not clear any such documents were found or if they pertained to the U.S. or another country.
The investigation was reportedly opened after the National Archives said that it had belatedly retrieved 15 boxes of White House documents, including some marked as classified, that the former president should have turned over upon leaving the White House in January 2021.
The probe of Trump’s treatment of government records is separate from the Justice Department’s examination of efforts by Trump and his associates to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
A federal magistrate signed the warrant to search Trump’s home after determining that the FBI had “probable cause” that a crime had been committed and that evidence of the alleged crime was present on the Trump property.
The Presidential Records Act requires that an outgoing president turn over all White House documents related to his presidency to the National Archives.
Trump was in New York when the FBI searched his Florida residence, but he took to his Truth Social platform to announce it as it was in progress, writing “Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.”