Since the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago earlier this week, many of Donald Trump’s most aggressive allies have called for the release of the court-approved materials. I’m starting to wonder if they’re familiar with the phrase, “Be careful what you wish for.”
At a Justice Department press conference this afternoon, Attorney General Merrick Garland addressed the subject publicly for the first time, and he made some news:
“Just now, the Justice Department has filed a motion in the southern district of Florida to unseal a search warrant and property receipt relating to a court-approved search that the FBI conducted earlier this week. That search was a premises located in Florida belonging to the former president.”
Garland added that the former president’s counsel was on site during the search, and his lawyer received the court-approved materials, in keeping with standard law enforcement practices. (This is worth noting, of course, because there have been some suggestions to the contrary in conservative media.)
In other words, Justice Department officials, in recognition of public interest, coupled with the fact that Trump has already issued public statements about what transpired, are asking a federal court to unseal relevant materials that would ordinarily be kept under seal. Team Trump will have an opportunity to oppose the motion — though that would certainly be a politically interesting move under the circumstances.
If, on the other hand, the Republican’s lawyers agree that the warrant should be unsealed, we’re likely to see it quite soon. The judge in this case has ordered the Justice Department to meet with Trump’s lawyers to see whether they'll oppose the motion to unseal.
The deadline to let the court know is tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. eastern.
It's worth emphasizing that the new motion filed by the DOJ isn't to disclose everything, but it would bring to light the materials Team Trump already has in its possession, which would make clear key details of the search.
It's why Marcy Wheeler noted, in response to today's statement, "Garland is calling Trump’s bluff."
The attorney general went on to note that he “personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant” in this case — something that was widely assumed, but not confirmed before this afternoon. He added that the Department of Justice “does not take such actions lightly” and first pursues “less intrusive” means.
But before wrapping up, Garland also took about a minute to defend federal law enforcement from “recent unfounded attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents and prosecutors.”
“I 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 honored to work alongside them.”
He didn’t literally say Republicans who’ve spent this week attacking federal law enforcement should back off, but it seemed like the obvious subtext.