US Justice Secretary Merrick Garland said on Thursday he had “personally approved” the FBI's spectacular search of former President Donald Trump's home in Florida, and condemned the “unfounded attacks” against his department and the federal police after the raid which angered Republicans.
During an exceptional press conference, Mr. Garland did not reveal anything about the reasons and the results of this operation, but he – unusually – announced that he had requested that the search warrant be made public.
“I personally endorsed the decision to seek a search warrant for this case,” Mr. Garland said in a short and rare televised appearance.
“The department does not take this kind of decision lightly,” he added, adding that it had been approved by a federal judge.
Stressing that “ethical obligations” prevented him from detailing the reasons for the raid, Mr. Garland said he asked a Florida judge to lift the confidentiality of the warrant, Mr. Trump has publicly confirmed the search and in view of “the ‘important public interest in this matter.
Mr. Trump, who received a copy of the warrant but did not reveal it, has until Friday to contest the request.
For analysts, Mr. Garland thus returns the ball to Donald Trump, who assures that the search is unjustified and was carried out for political reasons, de facto challenging him to oppose the publication of the warrant.
Does the federal police search have to do with the many boxes that Donald Trump took with him when he left the White House in January 2021? Is it linked to the investigation into his responsibility in the assault on the Capitol? Does it rather concern the suspicions of financial fraud of which the Trump Organization is the subject in New York?
In the court document requesting the confidentiality of the warrant, the Department of Justice cited, without contradicting them, public statements by Mr. Trump's representatives indicating that the FBI was looking for archival documents from the White House and possibly classified.
According to the Washington Post, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, some of the documents sought relate to nuclear weapons.
This unprecedented search by the FBI of a former president of the United States took place Monday at the luxury residence of Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.
Outraged, the 45th American president wrote on his social network Truth Social on Thursday that his lawyers were cooperating “fully” with the authorities when “suddenly and without warning, Mar-a-Lago was raided at 6:30 a.m. morning, by a VERY large number of officers”.
He also complained that officers “searched the First Lady's closets and searched through her clothes and personal effects”, leaving them in “a relative mess”.
The day before, he had suggested that the FBI may have “placed” evidence against him during this operation.
Never had a former tenant of the White House been worried by justice in this way.
Republican sympathizers, though known to usually show their support for law enforcement, have criticized the FBI in a virulent way.
The Association of FBI Agents on Thursday called ‘calls for violence against the police' ‘unacceptable' and FBI Director Christopher Wray denounced ‘baseless attacks' that ‘undermine respect for the state by right “.
On Thursday, a gunman who tried to enter an FBI office in Ohio was killed by law enforcement after a long confrontation.
In the wake of the search, the Republican tenors joined forces with their former president, who did not recognize his defeat in 2020 and plans to run again in 2024.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, himself a possible rival to Donald Trump in two years, expressed his “deep concern” after the FBI raid.
The Republican billionaire was also subjected to a hearing under oath, Wednesday, in the office of the Attorney General of New York.
But he invoked for four hours more than 440 times his right not to answer questions, under the 5th Amendment of the American Constitution, according to American media.
New York State's top magistrate, Letitia James, has been investigating since 2019 on suspicion of financial and tax fraud within the Trump Organization family group.