U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday that he personally approved the Justice Department’s decision to seek out and execute a search warrant on the Florida home of former President Donald Trump, based upon an ongoing investigation in which investigators had obtained probable cause necessitating the raid.
In a brief, 3 1/2-minute statement at the Justice Department headquarters in Washington, DC, Garland made his first public remarks since the Aug. 8 raid on Mar-a-Lago, which the embattled former president publicly disclosed that evening — setting off a firestorm of verbal attacks by his closest supporters upon law enforcement.
Because of the high public interest in the matter, Garland said on Aug. 11, the Justice Department agreed to seek the unsealing of the search warrant, pending a decision from the U.S. District Court of Southern Florida.
Sources told the Associated Press that the FBI came to Mar-a-Lago looking for evidence connected to the possible disappearance of classified government records. On Thursday, Garland did not offer any further details about what exactly the agents were looking for in the search, or the circumstances surrounding the investigation.
Nevertheless, the attorney general said, Justice Department personnel sought out the search warrant at Trump’s Florida home after meeting the required “probable cause” findings. With Garland’s consent, they sought out and received the approval of a federal judge.
Attorneys for Trump at Mar-a-Lago on the day of the search were provided with both a copy of the search warrant and a FBI property receipt, as required by law, Garland said. Though the Justice Department decline to publicly announce the raid Monday, Trump did so at his own discretion, “as is his right,” Garland said Thursday.
Garland sought to defend the Justice Department’s actions in the Trump raid and investigation, condemning the president’s most vocal and ardent supporters who have publicly denounced, on television and in social media, the FBI and the Justice Department, making baseless claims that the raid was “politically motivated.” Some Trump supporters even called for the FBI to be defunded and/or dismantled.
In so many words, Garland stressed that no American — not even a former president — is above the law.
“Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and our democracy,” Garland said on Aug. 11. “Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly and without fear or favor. Under my watch, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing. All Americans are entitled to the evenhanded application of the law, the due process of law and the presumption of innocence.”
Garland said he would not “stand by silently when” the integrity of the FBI and the Justice Department are “unfairly attacked,” and their integrity called into question — noting that they are “dedicated public servants who protect the people every day from violent crime, terrorism and other threats to public safety,” while safeguarding civil rights.
On Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray — whom Trump appointed to the job after firing his predecessor, James Comey — denounced threats made online against the bureau and its agents, calling them “deplorable and dangerous.”
As for the Trump investigation itself, Garland declined to provide further specifics about the case, or take questions from the press.
“More information will be made available in the appropriate way, and at the appropriate time,” he concluded.