Three days after the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Attorney General Merrick Garland broke his silence on Thursday to discuss the investigation into the former president and to defend the Department of Justice.
Garland also revealed that he personally approved the decision to ask a court for a search warrant in the politically charged case, which appears to be centered on Trump’s removal of classified documents from the White House.
“The department does not take such a decision lightly,” Garland told reporters in a brief statement in Washington, DC. “Where possible, it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken.”
The New York Times reported Thursday that Trump had received a subpoena this spring from the DOJ about the documents.
Garland announced that federal prosecutors had filed a motion in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida asking that the search warrant and an FBI property receipt, which lists the items taken, be unsealed.
Both of these documents were provided to Trump’s attorney, who was on site as the search took place, according to Garland.
The attorney general said the decision to ask a court to make the documents public was made in light of Trump publicly posting about the FBI raid on Monday, as well as what Garland said was the “substantial public interest in this matter.”
In their court filing, DOJ prosecutors wrote, “Given the intense public interest presented by a search of a residence of a former President, the government believes these factors favor unsealing the search warrant … and the Property Receipt, absent objection from the former President.”
Their motion also cited a Trump aide speaking to media to say the FBI agents were searching for “presidential records or any possibly classified material.”
“As such, the occurrence of the search and indications of the subject matter involved are already public,” the motion states.
Faced with attacks from Trump and his Republican allies who have called for the FBI to be defunded over what they say is a political witch hunt, Garland also defended these agents and DOJ officials.
“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” Garland said.
While Garland declined to immediately provide further information about the case, he said the investigation was being guided by law, not politics.
“Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and of our democracy,” Garland said. “Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor. Under my watch, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing.”