UPDATE: The latest bombshell over the FBI’s search at Mar-A-Lago came from The Washington Post, which on Thursday reported that the FBI searched Donald Trump’s home for documents relating to nuclear weapons.
Citing unnamed sources familiar with the investigation, the Post reported that there was deep concern about such information falling into the wrong hands.
Earlier on Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department had filed a motion to have the search warrant unsealed. Trump’s team has not said whether they will support or oppose such a move.
The Post story quickly dominated cable news shows on CNN and MSNBC, as pundits weighed the potential national security implications, of far greater importance than a bureaucratic tussle over missing records.
PREVIOUSLY: Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters on Thursday that the Justice Department has filed a motion to unseal portions of the search warrant used in Monday’s FBI action at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago property.
In the motion — which you can read here — prosecutors write that “the public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing. That said, the former president should have an opportunity to respond to this motion and lodge objections, including with regards to any ‘legitimate privacy interests’ or the potential for other ‘injury’ if these materials are made public.” It now will be up to Trump’s legal team to respond.
He said that the department filed the motion “in light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter.”
In his first public comments on the search, an action that triggered a fierce condemnation from Trump and his allies, Garland said that he personally approved the warrant.
“The department does not take such a decision lightly. 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,” Garland said.
Trump said on Monday evening that the FBI “raided” Mar-A-Lago, quickly triggering his supporters and lawmakers to claim that he was being unfairly treated and to lob unfounded accusations against the government, even though the full details of the incident are not yet known.
Trump’s attorneys have since indicated FBI conducted the search for potential government documents, perhaps including classified material. The former president and his team reportedly have been engaged in a legal tussle over documents that should have been turned over to the National Archives when Trump left office. The New York Times reported on Thursday that the Justice Department had suspected that Trump did not turn over all of the documents, and that federal prosecutors previously sought to obtain the documents through a subpoena.
Judicial Watch and the Times Union in Albany, NY already have filed motions to unseal the subpoena. After the government’s motion, Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered that the DOJ filed a “certificate of conferral” by 3 PM ET on Friday on whether Trump opposes the motion to unseal.
Garland also pushed back at attacks on the DOJ and the FBI agents and prosecutors, something that has raised concerns of political violence.
“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” Garland said. “The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated, patriotic public servants. 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.”
On Monday evening, shortly after the news of the search, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) blasted Garland himself and said that the DOJ “has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization.” He warned that when Republicans take back the House, they will “leave no stone unturned” in their oversight of the DOJ and that Garland should “preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”
Trump, his allies and Fox News’ Jesse Watters also have suggested or claimed that the FBI was planting evidence during the search, whipping up supporters into anger even though they have offered no basis for their claim. Earlier this week, Watters said, “What the FBI is probably doing is planting evidence, which is what they did during the Russia hoax.” He did back up his suspicion over the Mar-A-Lago search with any sourcing, but said that he had a “hunch” that the law enforcement agency “doctored evidence to get the warrant.”
On Fox News on Thursday, following a report on a gunman showing up at the FBI headquarters in Ohio, Geraldo Rivera said that “this really visceral hatred directed at the FBI by people who believe they are supporting the former president is really, really, very, very dangerous.”