US Attorney-General Merrick Garland said Thursday that he “personally approved” the search warrant request for documents that triggered Monday’s unprecedented FBI raid on the Florida home of former President Donald Trump.
Mr Garland, in brief comments during which he declined to take any questions, also said the Justice Department had asked a federal magistrate judge to unseal copies of the warrant and would do so as long as Mr Trump and his legal team do not object, the NY Post reports.
Mr Garland also stated that copies of the search warrant and FBI property receipt were given to Mr Trump’s attorneys on Monday and added that they were allowed to remain “on site during the search.”
“The Department filed the motion to make public the warrant and receipt in light of the former president’s public confirmation with the search, the surrounding circumstances, and the substantial public interest in this matter,” Mr Garland told reporters.
“Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and of our democracy, upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favour. Under my watch, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing.”
The motion to unseal the warrant — submitted by South Florida US Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez and DOJ counterintelligence chief Jay Bratt — notes that while the government initially wanted the documents to be kept secret, it now believes that releasing the warrant would not “impair court functions” moving forward.
It also notes that representatives of the 45th president have already provided “public characterisations of the materials sought,” and therefore “the occurrence of the search and indications of the subject matter involved are already public.”
In response to the DOJ request, Judge Bruce Reinhart — who signed off on the initial warrant Aug 5 — ordered the government to notify Mr Trump’s attorneys of the motion and advise the judge by 3pm Friday as to whether the former president opposed the warrant’s release.
“My attorneys and representatives were co-operating fully, and very good relationships had been established,” Mr Trump responded to Mr Garland in a post on his Truth Social platform.
“The government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it. They asked us to put an additional lock on a certain area – DONE! Everything was fine, better than that of most previous Presidents, and then, out of nowhere and with no warning, Mar-a-Lago was raided, at 6.30 in the morning, by VERY large numbers of agents, and even ‘safecrackers.’ They got way ahead of themselves. Crazy!”
Mr Garland spoke out three days after federal agents spent over nine hours searching Mar-a-Lago — breaking into a safe, scouring former first lady Melania Trump’s wardrobe, and searching a locked basement storage room. From there, the agents removed approximately a dozen boxes of documents and other materials from the White House.
The records reportedly include letters to Mr Trump from his predecessor Barack Obama and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“Much of our work is by necessity conducted out of the public eye,” the AG said in an attempt to explain his silence on the raid. “We do that to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans and to protect the integrity of our investigations.”
The Attorney-General also addressed what he called “unfounded attacks” toward the FBI and DOJ in the aftermath of the search, saying he “will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked.”
“The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated, patriotic public servants. Every day they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism and other threats to their safety while safeguarding our civil rights. They do so at great personal sacrifice and risk to themselves. I am honoured to work alongside them.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray has declined to comment on the raid, instead bemoaning the rise in potential threats of violence against federal agents this week.
“I’m always concerned about threats to law enforcement,” Mr Wray told reporters Wednesday. “Violence against law enforcement is not the answer, no matter who you’re upset with.”
The White House insisted that it did not know Mr Garland would speak about the raid ahead of time, with one senior administration official telling NBC News, “We have had no notice that he was giving remarks and no briefing on the content of them.”
Less than an hour after the AG finished speaking, the White House announced a “lid,” meaning Americans would not see or hear from President Joe Biden on Thursday.
This article originally appeared on NY Post and was reproduced with permission