- Donald Trump signaled on social media that he would support the unsealing of search records.
- DOJ pointed to intense public interest and Trump's remarks about the search to argue for unsealing.
- The unsealing sets the stage for the release of more detail about Monday's Mar-a-Lago raid.
Former President Donald Trump has formally signed off on the unsealing of records related to the FBI's search of his South Florida home, the Justice Department said Friday, setting the stage for the public release of the warrant and list of items seized during the unprecedented search.
In a court filing, the Justice Department told a federal magistrate judge that it had conferred with Trump's lawyers, who raised no objection to unsealing the records. The Justice Department's filing came as multiple news organizations reported — citing a copy of the search warrant — that the FBI raid was related to possible violations of the Espionage Act and laws governing the mishandling of government documents, including classified materials.
FBI agents seized 11 sets of classified documents, including some marked as top secret, and removed several boxes of items, binders of photos, a handwritten note, and the executive grant of clemency for Mr. Trump's ally Roger Stone, the Wall Street Journal reported. The manifest of seized items also included information about the "President of France."
A day earlier, the Justice Department took the extraordinary step of asking Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart to unseal the search warrant and manifest of items seized from Mar-a-Lago, with Attorney General Merrick Garland linking the unusual decision to Trump's recent public statements and the public interest in the raid of the former president's home and members-only club in West Palm Beach.
The Justice Department, in a court filing Thursday, said it supported the unsealing "absent objection by former President Donald Trump." Reinhart responded by ordering the Justice Department to consult Trump's legal team and advise by 3 pm Friday whether the former president raised such an objection.
Trump said late Thursday that he supported the "immediate release" of the records, posting on Truth Social: "Release the documents now!" (Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group that sued for the unsealing of the search warrant, called attention to the social media post in a court filing.)
But Trump could have released the documents himself. In a court filing, the Justice Department confirmed that it left Trump's legal team with a copy of the search warrant and list of items seized during the FBI raid on Monday, which appeared to focus on the former president's handling of government records and classified materials.
Rather than release those records, Trump excoriated the Justice Department and the FBI over a search he described as a politically-motivated "weaponization of the Justice System." Trump later suggested that the FBI was "planting" evidence at Mar-a-Lago during the search.
Republican allies rallied to his cause and demanded transparency from the Justice Department. Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican and former governor of the state, said the federal government had gone the way of the Gestapo — the notorious secret police in Nazi Germany.
Sen. Marco Rubio, another Florida Republican, said on Fox News that the Justice Department searched Mar-a-Lago looking for "whatever they could find."
"I actually don't think they went in looking for documents," Rubio said. "I think that was probably their excuse, they found some Obama donor judge to write them ... They found an Obama judge — not even a judge, magistrate, to write and give them a search warrant."
In his announcement of the Justice Department's unsealing request, Garland on Thursday closely attached the decision to Trump's rhetoric, including a lengthy public statement Monday in which the former president confirmed the FBI search.
"The department did not make any public statements on the day of the search," Garland said. "The former president publicly confirmed the search that evening, as is his right."
Garland also addressed the aspersions cast on law enforcement, saying he would "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 every day. They protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism, and other threats to their safety, while safeguarding our civil rights," Garland said. "They do so at great personal sacrifice and risk to themselves. I am honored to work alongside them."