US Justice Department seeking to unseal search warrant of Trump home

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The US Justice Department has asked a court to unseal the search warrant the FBI received before searching the Florida estate of former president Donald Trump, Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

Garland cited the “substantial public interest in this matter” in announcing the request at a hastily scheduled Justice Department news conference on Thursday (Friday AEST).

Garland also said that he personally approved the search warrant, which was part of an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the discovery of classified White House records recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida earlier this year.

Police direct traffic outside an entrance to former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate during a raid
Police direct traffic outside an entrance to former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate during the raid. (AP)

It was not immediately clear if and when the unsealing request, filed in federal court in Miami, might be granted or when the documents could be released.

The FBI search at Mar-a-Lago this week came months after federal investigators served an earlier grand jury subpoena and took away sensitive national security documents from former president Donald Trump’s property during a June meeting, people familiar with the matter tell CNN.I

Investigators executed Monday’s search in part because they had developed evidence, including from at least one witness, that there were potentially classified documents still remaining at the Palm Beach, Florida, property, a person briefed on the matter said.

The National Archives arranged for the retrieval of 15 boxes of documents that included classified information in January, they said.

Authorities also believed the documents remaining at Mar-a-Lago had national security implications, CNN reported earlier this week.

Former President Donald Trump waves as he departs Trump Tower, Wednesday, August 10, 2022, in New York, on his way to the New York attorney-general’s office for a deposition in a civil investigation. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson) (AP)

The subpoena issued before the June meeting, during which investigators were shown where documents were held in a basement room at the Trump residence and private club, shows how the investigation has escalated and suggests the discussions had become confrontational long before Monday’s search.

The criminal investigation started with concerns about missing documents raised by the National Archives, which made a criminal referral to the Justice Department.

That led to FBI interviews with aides to grand jury subpoenas to this week’s court-authorised search and seizure of documents.

Trump and his lawyers have sought to present their interactions with Justice Department prosecutors as cooperative, and that the search came as a shock. The subpoena was first reported by Just the News.
Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal reported earlier that the search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence was prompted by a tip to investigators about the possibility of additional classified documents.

In response to questions about the grand jury subpoena, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said in a statement to CNN: “Monday’s unprecedented and absolutely unnecessary raid of President Trump’s home was only the latest and most egregious action of hostility by the Biden Administration, whose Justice Department has been weaponised to harass President Trump, his supporters and his staff.”

Armed Secret Service agents stand outside an entrance to former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate
Armed Secret Service agents stand outside the Mar-a-Lago estate. (AP)

Earlier this spring, federal investigators began interviewing members of Trump’s staff at Mar-a-Lago and former White House officials who were involved in moving documents from the West Wing to his Palm Beach residence at the end of his presidency, according to three people familiar with those interviews.

In addition to the grand jury subpoena for documents, CNN previously reported that federal investigators separately served a subpoena for surveillance video at Mar-a-Lago, seeking to gather information about who had access to areas where documents were stored, according to people briefed on the matter.

The subpoena served to the Trump Organisation, the former president’s company that operates the Palm Beach property, came after the June meeting.

CNN previously reported that federal investigators visited Mar-a-Lago in June to discuss White House records they believed were still being held at the Palm Beach property with the former President and his attorneys.

Trump was present at the beginning of the meeting to greet investigators but did not stay to answer questions.

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During the meeting, Trump’s attorneys showed the investigators documents — some of them had markings indicating they were classified.

The agents were given custody of the documents that were marked top secret or higher, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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