Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday that he “personally approved” the FBI search of former president Donald Trump’s personal residence at Mar-a-Lago earlier this week.
He said in a statement delivered from the Department on Justice that the agency “does not take such a decision lightly where possible.”
“It is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken,” Garland said.
He said that the DOJ has filed a motion in the Southern District of Florida to unseal the search warrant that FBI agents used to search Trump’s residence.
“The government filed the motion to make public the warrant and receipt in light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter,” he said.
Trump released a statement on Monday saying federal agents raided his private residence despite him having cooperated with authorities for months to return documents he allegedly took from the White House after his term.
The National Archives and Records Administration recovered 15 boxes of records in January, including items “marked as classified national security information.”
A source told the Washington Post that an inventory of unclassified items in the recovered boxes is 100 pages long. Recovered items that were improperly taken to Mar-a-Lago include a cocktail napkin, a birthday dinner menu, a phone list, charts, slide decks, letters, memos, maps, talking points, schedules and more, according to the report.
Garland said Thursday that the copies of the search warrant and property receipt were given to Trump’s lawyers when the search at Mar-a-Lago occurred.
The attorney general refused to take questions from reporters saying, “This is all I can say right now.”
Republican lawmakers have blasted the unprecedented raid on a former president’s home.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pledged to conduct “immediate oversight” of the Department of Justice if Republicans claim the majority in the House in the 2022 midterms.
“I’ve seen enough,” McCarthy wrote in a tweet. “The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization. When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned. Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Republican Conference Chairman Representative Elise Stefanik both similarly decried the raid as an act of political “weaponization.”
Garland on Thursday defended FBI and DOJ officials: “I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked.”
A senior White House official reportedly told NBC News that the White House was not informed of Garland’s planned remarks on Thursday saying, “We have had no notice that he was giving remarks and no briefing on the content of them.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that President Biden was not made aware that the FBI planned to search Trump’s personal residence either.
“What I can tell you definitively and for sure, he was not aware of this,” Jean-Pierre said of Biden. “Nobody at the White House was. Nobody was given a heads up and we did not know about what happened yesterday.”