Search Warrant on Trump Home Could Be Issued as Soon as Today: Live Updates
All week, former President Donald J. Trump’s allies have been pressing Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to explain the basis for the search warrant that federal agents executed at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a residence. -Lago – and he refused to break the silence he wears as his unwrinkled federal blue suit.
On Thursday, Mr. Garland finally responded, summoning the media to a briefing room on the seventh floor of the Justice Department’s headquarters to present a public vindication. The new information he provided was extremely limited and largely hinged on the decision of Mr. Trump’s attorneys to block release of the warrant and other documents sealed by a federal judge.
But the fact that he felt compelled to speak speaks volumes about the high stakes and depth of possible pitfalls in a closely watched investigation.
Here are three takeaways.
Mr. Garland personally signed the research.
Justice Department officials have been tightly guarded since Monday, when FBI agents entered Mr. Trump’s inner sanctuary only to emerge with boxes of sensitive documents the former president had taken with him to Florida. And they were particularly reluctant to discuss Mr. Garland’s role – whether he had approved the search or even whether he knew that prosecutors in his National Security Division had made the extraordinary request to sift through the personal assets of an ex-president.
That silence fueled speculation that Mr. Garland was somehow out of the decision-makers’ loop, or that he wanted people outside the department to think the process was somehow on autopilot to provide himself with political cover. .
Not so. Midway through his laconic, tense two-minute statement, he offered an unequivocal and resonant assertion.
“I personally endorsed the decision to seek a search warrant in this case,” Mr Garland said.
The ball is in Mr. Trump’s court.
Moments before Mr. Garland was to speak, a senior official in the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Counterintelligence Chief Jay I. Bratt, filed a motion to unseal the search warrant, as well as an inventory of the objects recovered during the search.
The last sentence of the document contained a critical caveat. It gave Mr Trump’s legal team the opportunity to make a ‘compensatory’ argument against the release of the warrant, putting the final decision in the hands of the former president and federal judge Bruce Reinhart, presiding over the ‘affair.
Why is this important?
Because optics matter. A lot. Mr. Garland, above all else, wants to avoid accusations that he is arguing cases in the public arena, which he says will fatally jeopardize any potential lawsuits and further damage the already fragile reputation of federal law enforcement. following the 2016 overt behavior of James B. Comey, the former FBI director, regarding the investigation of Hillary Clinton emails.
Proposing that the documents be made public – while giving Mr. Trump’s team the option of rejecting their release – puts the burden of disclosure on the former president, and it gives Mr. Garland the opportunity to counter his detractors, who demanded that he explain the reason for his actions.
Mr. Trump’s team has yet to say what it will do. Judge Reinhart gave them until 3 p.m. Friday to argue their case anyway.
Will the warrant contain bombs?
A federal search warrant, especially one issued in such a high-profile, high-stakes case, is likely to contain at least new information and insight. But in most cases, they don’t contain a host of new details, current and former prosecutors say.
Much of the important information included in the Mar-a-Lago warrant is already public, including the name of the judge who issued it and the origins of the warrant in a month-long investigation, launched at the request of the Archives. reports on Mr. Trump’s handling of sensitive White House documents after he left office in January 2021.
The most interesting, and perhaps damning, information is likely to be hidden inside the supporting affidavits presented by the Department of Justice to the judge. They could, for example, contain details of witnesses who alerted the government to documents that Mr. Trump did not turn over in previous negotiations with the department.
But those affidavits don’t have to be given to Mr. Trump’s legal team by law, and the department is unlikely ever to make them public, officials said.
That leaves two more sets of documents: the inventories of materials sought by agents entering Mar-a-Lago, and the manifesto of what they took.
If there are any major new reveals, they could be here. The Justice Department’s request to unseal these records explicitly states that they should be “redacted” to exclude the names of law enforcement personnel who executed the warrant. What is less clear is the accuracy of the descriptions on the document listings – which could make a significant difference.
August 11, 2022
An earlier version of this article mischaracterized how Attorney General Merrick B. Garland described the investigation into the Trump documents. He called the Jan. 6 investigation “the largest and most important investigation” in Justice Department history; he did not call the investigation into the Trump documents the most important in history.