The process wasn’t entirely easy. In order for the Justice Department to get a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, law enforcement officials needed to explain to a court where they wanted to search and what they wanted to search for. As we discussed yesterday, they also had to demonstrate probable cause to the court, explaining why they believed they’d find evidence of a specific federal crime.
In this case, they succeeded. The Justice Department obtained a search warrant and the FBI executed it. As a result, three entities have the document: The court, federal law enforcement, and Donald Trump and his team.
Judicial rules prevent the court from disclosing a search warrant that is under seal. With this in mind, Republicans have spent the last couple of days demanding that the Justice Department satisfy their curiosity and release the relevant records, but that’s not an option, either.
Indeed, federal law enforcement is bound by secrecy rules that exist not only to protect the integrity of ongoing investigations, but also to protect those facing scrutiny. In the recent past, Republicans insisted that high-ranking Justice Department and FBI officials agree that releasing information about uncharged individuals is wrong.
And that leaves the former president and his lawyers, who could voluntarily release the search warrant at their leisure — if they wanted to.
But they don’t want to. A source close to Trump told NBC News’ Vaugh Hillyard, “No, we’re not releasing a copy of the warrant.”
To be sure, that’s not surprising. The Republican and his lawyers are under no obligation to make such a disclosure, and the vast majority of those who receive such a search warrant have no interest in sharing them with the public.
But we’re left with an awkward dynamic:
- Team Trump says the FBI’s search was illegitimate and politically motivated.
- Team Trump knows the search warrant could help prove (or disprove) their claims.
- Team Trump doesn’t want to disclose the search warrant.
Remember, Republicans have spent the last couple of days working from a certain assumption: Federal law enforcement, they’ve claimed, “raided” the home of a former president as part of an outrageous abuse of power. Team Trump could theoretically bolster those assumptions by releasing the search warrant that was executed, shedding light on the investigation and its direction.
If the basis for the warrant were flimsy, disclosing it would prove Republicans right. If the rationale for the search lacked merit, releasing the warrant would help on this front, too.
All of which led to, “No, we’re not releasing a copy of the warrant.”
It’s the sort of thing that should, at least in theory, give Republicans scrambling to defend the former president pause.