by Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is asking a federal court to vacate a warrant used to search former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday in the extraordinary case. In recognition of the public interest, he said. classified records.
The motion is notable because traditionally such documents remain sealed pending investigation. But the Justice Department, recognizing that its silence had created a loophole for bitter verbal attacks from Trump and his allies, wanted to lend the FBI’s side to Garland’s crackdown.
“The public’s clear and strong interest in understanding what happened under these circumstances makes an overwhelming case for unsealing,” a motion filed Thursday in Florida federal court called for the closure of the seal.
If the warrant is issued — the request now rests with the judge and Trump can appeal — it could potentially reveal invalid information about the former president and his handling of sensitive government documents because he is a candidate for the White House. and prepare to run. During his successful 2016 campaign, he frequently referred to the FBI investigation into his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for misrepresenting classified information.
It’s unclear at this point how much information will be contained in the documents if released, or whether they will include an FBI affidavit that will likely provide a detailed factual basis for the discovery. To obtain a search warrant, federal agents must demonstrate to a judge that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.
Neither Trump nor the FBI have said anything about what documents the FBI may have seized. But the ex-president filed another complaint about the search on Thursday.
Trump, who has berated the FBI for years and tried to sow distrust in his decisions among his supporters, said the warrant was served and the search was conducted despite his cooperation with the Justice Department.
In a post on his social platform Truth, Trump said his “lawyers and representatives fully cooperated prior to the search” and that government officials “whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, if ours had passed.”
The policy of the FBI and Department of Justice when discussing ongoing investigations is to protect the integrity of the investigation and avoid unfair defamation of individuals who are being investigated but ultimately not charged. warns against. This is especially true for search warrants, where court records are routinely kept secret as investigations progress.
In this case, however, Garland cited the fact that Trump himself had provided the first public confirmation of the FBI’s finding “as his authority.” The Justice Department also said in its new filing that disclosing information about it now would not affect the work of the court.
Still, in a hastily contrived public statement from the Justice Department’s forum, Garland appeared to acknowledge the unusual nature of the Department’s request, as he declined to ask questions or provide substantial details about the FBI’s investigation. done.
“Most of our work is inevitably done in camera. We’re doing this to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans and the integrity of our investigations,” he said. “Federal law, long-standing departmental regulations, and our ethical commitment prevent me from providing further details based on the finding at this time.”
He said he personally authorized the search warrant, a move he said was underway in a search for classified White House records leaked earlier this year from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, had been recovered. Was part of the Justice Department investigation. The National Archives had asked the department to conduct an investigation which found secret records had been found in 15 boxes of records recovered from the property.
The Attorney General condemned the verbal abuse of FBI and Justice Department officials during the raids. Some of Trump’s Republican allies have called for discrediting the FBI.
Earlier Thursday, a gunman wearing a body armor attempted to enter a security checkpoint at an FBI field office in Ohio, then fled and was injured in a shootout in a standoff with law enforcement.
“I will not stand still when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” Garland said of federal law enforcement officers, calling them “devoted, patriotic officers.”
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Lindsay Whitehurst, and Meg Kinnard contributed to this report.
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