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U.S. seeking to unseal warrant used to search Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, AG says

Click to play video: 'US AG Garland ‘personally approved’ search warrant of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home' US AG Garland ‘personally approved’ search warrant of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home
WATCH: US AG Garland 'personally approved' search warrant of Trump's Mar-a-Lago home – Aug 11, 2022

The U.S. Department of Justice has asked a court to unseal the search warrant used by the FBI to enter Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday.

In his first public comments since Monday’s unprecedented search of the former U.S. president’s home, Garland said the motion to unseal was filed “given the substantial public interest in this matter,” as well as Trump’s own statements.

Garland, the nation’s top law enforcement official, said he had personally approved the decision to search Trump’s home. He added he did “not take such a decision lightly.”

Read more: Republicans rally around Donald Trump after FBI search of his estate

Trump first broke the news Monday evening that FBI agents had come to his estate in Florida and searched multiple rooms, alleging they also opened his personal safe.

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It was later reported that agents were seeking documents and other items Trump allegedly took with him from the White House to Florida at the end of his presidency, some of which were believed to be confidential material — a federal crime.

It is not yet known if FBI agents found anything at Mar-a-Lago, or exactly what materials authorities were seeking.

Click to play video: 'FBI’s unprecedented search of Trump’s home stirs Republican outrage' FBI’s unprecedented search of Trump’s home stirs Republican outrage
FBI’s unprecedented search of Trump’s home stirs Republican outrage – Aug 9, 2022

Garland has been under intense pressure from both political parties to provide more details about the evidence that led to a federal judge approving the warrant.

The attorney general, FBI director Christopher Wray and the judge himself have faced online death threats from supporters of Trump, while Republicans have accused Democrats of weaponizing the Justice Department and FBI to go after Trump, which Garland condemned Thursday.

“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” he said. “The men and women of the FBI and Justice Department are dedicated, patriotic public servants … I am honoured to serve alongside them.”

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He did not share more on the case beyond confirming Trump’s lawyers were present during the search and were given a copy of the warrant by FBI agents. He said he could not speak further because of the ongoing investigation.

Read more: Donald Trump supporters descend on Mar-a-Lago to protest FBI raid

Yet the motion to unseal the warrant also appeared to recognize that the absence of any public statements about the search before Garland’s brief address had only further whipped up speculation about the case, creating space for political attacks from both sides. Republicans have been fundraising off the search, which comes months before November’s midterm elections that will determine control of Congress.

Although warrants and other materials in an ongoing investigation are usually kept under seal, the motion argues that because of Trump’s public statements and comments made by his lawyers and other members of his team to the media, some of the details contained within the warrant are already known.

“The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” said a motion filed in federal court in Florida on Thursday seeking the the unsealing.

Click to play video: 'Trump supporters protest FBI raid of former president’s Mar-a-lago residence' Trump supporters protest FBI raid of former president’s Mar-a-lago residence
Trump supporters protest FBI raid of former president’s Mar-a-lago residence – Aug 9, 2022

It was not immediately clear when — or if — the unsealing request might be granted or when the documents could be released. Trump will also have a chance to object, which could happen if he believes the contents of the warrant are damaging.

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In a statement on his Truth social network, Trump said: “My attorneys and representatives were cooperating fully, and very good relationships had been established. The government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it.”

At issue is a months-long investigation into Trump’s illegal removal of presidential records upon the completion of his term last January. The U.S. National Archives, which was supposed to receive the materials, has since received about 15 boxes of the missing records but has indicated some may still be missing, according to multiple reports.

Read more: Trump says FBI raided Florida estate. What legal challenges does he already face?

The investigation is one of several federal and state probes plaguing Trump, who is also being increasingly scrutinized for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss as well as his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.

Yet Democrats have accused Garland of being either too slow or too cautious to hold the former president accountable for his post-election behaviour, with some even suggesting Monday’s search for presidential records undermines those efforts.

Republican reactions, meanwhile, have been split between those ready to attack the attorney general and the FBI for the Trump search and others who warned against rhetoric that could undermine federal law enforcement. Few GOP lawmakers have condemned the violent threats against Garland and FBI officials.

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The FBI said an armed person had tried to breach its office in Cincinnati early on Thursday in what it called a “critical incident.” Local law enforcement said officers traded shots with a male suspect wearing body armor.

It was not yet known if the incident was motivated by the Mar-a-Lago search.

—With files from Reuters and the Associated Press

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