Washington — The Justice Department moved to unseal the search warrant used by federal agents to seize documents from former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida, with Attorney General Merrick Garland revealing he “personally approved” the decision to seek the warrant.
In brief remarks from the Justice Department as the government filed its request, Garland defended the move to search Mar-a-Lago, and said he “does not take such decisions lightly.”
He noted, however, that he was bound by federal law, department rules and ethical obligations from providing more information about the basis of the search.
“Faithful adherence to the role of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and our democracy. Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor,” he said. “Under my watch, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing. All Americans are entitled to the even-handed application of the law, to due process of the law and to the presumption of innocence.”
The decision by the Justice Department to move to make public the warrant was made “in light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial interest in this matter,” Garland said.
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks about the FBI’s search warrant served at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida during a statement at the U.S. Justice Department in Washington on Aug. 11, 2022. LEAH MILLIS / REUTERS
The former president revealed that the FBI had executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago on Monday, and sources confirmed to CBS News that the search was connected to a Justice Department investigation into Trump’s handling of presidential records. The National Archives and Records Administration retrieved 15 boxes of presidential records, some of which contained classified national security material, from Mar-a-Lago in mid-January, and asked the Justice Department to investigate.
During its search earlier this week, the FBI took boxes and documents, two sources confirmed to CBS News, and no electronics were taken. One official said some or possibly all of the seized records contained classified information.
Sources familiar with the matter told CBS News on Thursday that a federal grand jury issued a subpoena related to the document investigation in the spring, before Justice Department officials met with Trump attorneys at Mar-a-Lago in June regarding the records. The online news outlet Just the News first reported the existence of the subpoena.
Trump and his GOP allies were quick to denounce the search, claiming without evidence it is a politically motivated attack against a likely challenger to President Biden in 2024. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy forecasted an investigation into the Justice Department if Republicans win control of the House in the November midterm elections, telling Garland in a tweet to preserve records and prepare to testify next year.
Robert Costa and Andres Triay contributed reporting.