AG Garland says he approved FBI raid of Trump's estate

Attorney General Merrick Garland delivers a statement Aug. 11, 2022, on the FBI raid of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate (Video statement)

Amid bipartisan outrage over the FBI raid of former President Trump’s estate, Attorney General Merrick Garland broke his silence Thursday, declaring in live televised remarks that he personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant.

Garland explained that whenever possible, the DOJ seeks less intrusive means in such instances and “does not take such decisions lightly.”

He announced that the Justice Department has filed a motion in the Southern District of Florida to unseal the search warrant and property receipt related to the raid Monday.

The attorney general said copies of the warrant and the receipt were provided to Trump’s lawyers on site during the search.

After Garland’s remarks, Trump said on his social media platform Truth Social that the raid was unnecessary.

“My attorneys and representatives were cooperating fully, and very good relationships had been established. The government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it,” he wrote. “They asked us to put an additional lock on a certain area – DONE! Everything was fine, better than that of most previous Presidents, and then, out of nowhere and with no warning, Mar-a-Lago was raided, at 6:30 in the morning, by VERY large numbers of agents, and even ‘safecrackers.’ They got way ahead of themselves. Crazy!”

Garland, in his remarks Thursday, addressed what he called “recent unfounded attacks on the professionalism” of the FBI and DOJ and its agents in response to the raid.

“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” he said. “The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated, patriotic public servants.

“Every day they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism, and other threats to their safety while safeguarding our civil rights,” he said.

The raid was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which is running the criminal investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. Whistleblowers from the Washington field office allege the agent in charge of their office, Timothy Thibault, helped cover up derogatory information on the Biden family’s influence peddling operation and also was “deeply involved” in the decision to open the investigation against President Trump of so-called “fake electors.” The assistant director of the Washington office, Steven M. D’Antuono, previously headed the Detroit field office, which concocted the FBI informant-led plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that was blamed on Trump supporters just before the 2020 election.

Real Clear Investigations senior writer Mark Hemingway tweeted: “The same DOJ that declared parents complaining about school boards a terrorist threat says the FBI that forged warrant applications to spy on an elected president deserves the benefit of the doubt. Yeah, no.”

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Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley said in a Fox News segment just prior to Garland’s remarks that the attorney general and the Justice Department should have anticipated the response to the raid, knowing the distrust held by a large portion of the public in the wake of the Trump-Russia hoax and other cases.

“This is a historic event with still unclear political dimensions and ramifications,” he said.

Garland’s statement contradicted a Newsweek report Wednesday citing a senior Justice Department source saying the attorney general had no prior knowledge of the date and time of the specific raid, and was not asked to approve it.

“I know it’s hard for people to believe,” the official said, “but this was a matter for the U.S. Attorney and the FBI.”

The official said, however, that Garland was regularly briefed on the Records Act investigation and was aware of the grand jury and the material sought by federal prosecutors.

At the White House on Tuesday, Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Biden was not briefed in advance of the raid.

“The Justice Department conducts investigations independently and we leave any law enforcement matters to them,” she said. “It would not be appropriate for us to comment on any ongoing investigations.”

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Investigative reporter John Solomon’s Just the News reported Thursday that two months before the raid, Trump secretly received a grand jury subpoena for classified documents belonging to the National Archives.

Trump voluntarily cooperated, Solomon reported, by turning over responsive evidence and security surveillance footage, and allowing federal agents and a senior Justice Department lawyer to tour his private storage locker. Solomon cited a half dozen people familiar with the incident who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump made a surprise appearance, personally greeting the DOJ National Security Division prosecutor and three FBI agents who came to his estate June 3.

The subpoena, Solomon reported, requested any remaining documents Trump possessed with any classification markings. That included photographs of foreign leaders, correspondence or mementos from his presidency.

One of the witnesses said Trump told the agents, “Look, whatever you need let us know.” The federal officials were surprised by the invitation and asked if they could see the storage locker where the items from his presidency were stored. The president’s lawyers, at his instruction, allowed the search and the entourage left cordially. Five days later, DOJ officials asked that a more secure lock be installed on the storage locker, and the Secret Service carried out the request.

Surveillance video footage covering the locker also was given voluntarily to federal authorities.

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