(The Hill) – The Justice Department on Thursday moved to unseal a warrant authorizing a search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate this week following escalating demands for answers about the unprecedented investigation.
“The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in a court filing submitted Thursday afternoon.
The filing coincided with a public statement from Attorney General Merrick Garland, his first since FBI agents executed the search warrant on Monday.
Garland said he personally signed off on the decision to apply for and execute that search warrant, and that the decision was not made “lightly.”
“All Americans are entitled to the even-handed application of the law, to due process of law and to the presumption of innocence,” Garland said in remarks at DOJ headquarters. “Much of our work is by necessity conducted out of the public eye. We do that to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans and to protect the integrity of our investigations. Federal law, long standing department rules and our ethical obligations prevent me from providing further details as to the basis of the search at this time.”
The court filing on Thursday also cited Trump’s own public comments as well as commentary from his legal team about the search as a reason for why it should be made public.
“As such, the occurrence of the search and indications of the subject matter involved are already public,” the DOJ lawyers wrote.
Trump will have an opportunity to argue against unsealing the materials if he disagrees with the move. Attorneys representing the former president did not immediately respond when asked for comment.
The New York Times and the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch have both filed similar motions to unseal the search warrant and accompanying materials in recent days.
In addition to the search warrant itself, the sealed materials at issue include the FBI’s inventory of what it seized during Monday’s search and likely a law enforcement affidavit laying out the basis to suspect there was evidence of criminal conduct at Mar-a-Lago.
The FBI as well as the Department of Justice has faced a barrage of criticism in the days since the search warrant was executed at Trump’s home.
That includes comments from Trump himself that the search was purely political and even insinuated without any evidence that FBI agents may have planted evidence during the search.
Garland did not name any names in his brief statement, but confronted such criticism head on.
“Let me address recent unfounded attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department 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,” he said.
The motion does not signal any wholesale change in DOJ’s plans to remain tight-lipped about the investigation, and Garland’s three-minute statement ended with a refusal to take any questions.
“This is all I can say right now. More information will be made available in the appropriate way and at the appropriate time,” Garland said.