Merrick Garland pushes to make court-approved warrant public amid GOP anger, says he personally approved the search.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland has defended the FBI search conducted at former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida earlier this week, saying that he personally approved it.
At a brief news conference on Thursday, Garland told reporters that the Department of Justice has asked a federal judge to unseal the court-approved warrant that enabled the search and property receipt relating to it.
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“The Department filed the motion to make public the warrant and receipt in light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter,” Garland said.
The attorney general did not provide details about the nature of the investigation that led to the search at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida on Monday night. But several US media outlets had cited unidentified sources as saying that the probe is looking into possible mishandling of classified material.
“I personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter,” Garland said, adding that the Department of Justice does not take searching citizens’ homes lightly and would employ “less intrusive” means where possible.
The search at Trump’s home sparked fury among his supporters, with some Republican lawmakers promising to investigate the Department of Justice, including Garland, if they win power in the upcoming midterm elections.
Others threatened to defund the FBI, accusing the law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation of targeting Trump for political reasons.
On Thursday, Garland responded to what he called “unfounded attacks” against Department of Justice and FBI 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… I am honoured to work alongside them,” he said.
Garland’s statement came amid reports of growing threats of violence and even talk of a “civil war” by Trump supporters online after the search.
Republicans had rallied around Trump and come to his defence after the search. “If the Democrats wanted to deal a death blow to Trump, using the FBI as a tool for political gain was not the way to do it,” Congresswoman Lauren Boebert wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
“Seeing the FBI raid Mar-a-Lago has had the opposite effect. The Republican Party hasn’t been this unified in a long time!”
Trump had announced late on Monday that a “large number” of FBI agents had entered his residence at Mar-a-Lago in an “unannounced raid”, saying that they put the place “under siege” and “broke into” his safe.
The former president described the search as part of a Democratic-led political push to prevent him from running again in 2024 and called it “political persecution”.
But President Joe Biden’s White House has repeatedly said it did not have prior knowledge of the search and it does not interfere in Department of Justice-led investigations.