Judge is deciding on unsealing Mar-a-Lago FBI warrant – Chicago Tribune


WASHINGTON — A federal judge was set to rule Friday as soon as possible on whether to grant the Justice Department’s request to rescind the warrant authorizing the FBI to search former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate. Attorney General Merrick Garland said there was “significant public interest in this matter” and Trump supported the “immediate” release of the warrant.

The decision on whether or not to unseal the documents rested with U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the same judge who signed the search warrant. The Justice Department had until Friday afternoon to tell the judge whether Trump’s lawyers agree or disagree with the proposal to make it public.

In posts on his Truth Social platform, Trump wrote, “Not only will I not oppose the release of documents … I am going a step further by encouraging the immediate release of those documents.” He continued to attack the FBI search for Mar-a-Lago as “unAmerican, unwarranted and unnecessary.”

Trump himself has been given at least some of the records the administration wanted to unlock, but he and his lawyers have so far refused to make them public.

The Justice Department’s request is notable because such documents traditionally remain sealed during an ongoing investigation. But the department seemed to recognize that the silence since the search had created a vacuum for bitter verbal attacks by Trump and his allies, and that the public had a right to side with the FBI on what sparked Monday’s action in the United States. home of the former president.

“The clear and strong public interest in understanding what happened under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” said a motion filed Thursday in federal court in Florida.

Should the warrant be released, it could reveal unflattering information about Trump and the FBI’s scrutiny of his handling of sensitive government documents as he prepares for another run for the White House. During his successful 2016 campaign, he frequently pointed to an FBI investigation into his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, over whether she had mishandled classified information.

Whether it is unclear at this time how much information would be included in the documents, if they were made public, or if they contained an affidavit from the FBI that would presumably contain a detailed factual basis for the search. The department specifically requested the unsealing of the warrant and a proof of title showing the items seized, along with two unspecified attachments.

Several news organizations have separately requested Reinhart to release all documents related to the search, given the high level of public interest.

To obtain a search warrant, federal authorities must prove to a judge that there is probable reason to believe that a crime has been committed. Garland said he personally approved the warrant, a decision the department said he didn’t take lightly, as standard practice where possible is to choose less intrusive tactics than a search warrant.

In this case, according to a person familiar with the case, there was significant contact with Trump and his representatives prior to the search warrant, including a subpoena for data and a visit to Mar-a-Lago a few months ago by FBI and officials. from the Department of Justice to assess how the documents were stored. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Neither Trump nor the FBI has said anything about what documents the FBI may have recovered, or what exactly agents were looking for.

Trump, who has for years criticized the FBI and sought to instill mistrust among his supporters in his decisions, said the warrant had been issued and the search was conducted despite his cooperation with the Department of Justice during the search.

In a post on his Truth Social platform, Trump said his “lawyers and representatives cooperated fully” before the search, and that government officials “could have gotten what they wanted, whenever they wanted, if we had it.”

FBI and Justice Department policies warn against discussing pending investigations, both to protect the integrity of the investigations and to avoid unfairly defaming someone who is investigated but ultimately not charged. That’s especially true in the case of search warrants, where supporting court papers are routinely kept secret while the investigation progresses.

In this case, however, Garland cited the fact that Trump himself had given the first public confirmation of the FBI search, “as is his right.” The Justice Department also said in its new filing that releasing information about the court now would not harm the court’s functions.

The Justice Department under Garland has been suspicious of public statements about politically charged investigations, or of confirming the extent to which it could investigate Trump as part of a wider investigation into the Jan. 6 riots in the US Capitol and attempts to investigate the results. of the 2020 elections.

The department has tried to avoid injecting themselves into presidential politics, as happened in 2016 when then-FBI Director James Comey made an unusual public statement announcing that the FBI would not recommend criminal charges against Clinton over her treatment. of email — and when he took the floor again just over a week before the election to inform Congress that the investigation was effectively reopened due to the discovery of new emails.

The Mar-a-Lago search warrant issued Monday was part of an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the discovery of classified White House records recovered from Trump’s Palm Beach home earlier this year. Florida. The National Archives had asked the department to investigate after it said 15 boxes of records it retrieved from the estate contained classified records. Multiple federal laws govern the handling of classified information.

The Attorney General also condemned verbal attacks on FBI and Justice Department personnel during the search. Some of Trump’s Republican allies have called for the FBI to be relieved of the burden. Large numbers of Trump supporters have called for the warrant’s release, hoping it will show Trump was wrongly targeted.

“I will not stand by when their integrity is unjustly attacked,” Garland said of federal law enforcement officers, calling them “devoted, patriotic officials.”

Earlier Thursday, an armed man in body armor attempted to breach a security checkpoint at an FBI field office in Ohio, then fled and was later killed after clashing with law enforcement. A law enforcement officer briefed on the matter identified the man as Ricky Shiffer and said he was believed to have been in Washington in the days leading up to the Capitol attack and may have been there on the day it occurred.

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Lindsay Whitehurst and Meg Kinnard contributed to this report.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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