Donald Trump said he backed the “immediate release” of documents related to this week’s FBI search on his Mar-a-Lago estate, just hours after attorney-general Merrick Garland moved to unseal the warrant and the list of items retrieved by federal agents.
The former US president called for the papers to be made public in a statement issued just before midnight on Thursday, after huddling with his legal team to discuss the next steps in the legal stand-off pitting him against US law enforcement agencies.
“Not only will I not oppose the release of documents related to the unAmerican, unwarranted, and unnecessary raid and break-in of my home in Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago, I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents,” he wrote.
“This unprecedented political weaponisation of law enforcement is inappropriate and highly unethical,” he added.
A federal judge had given Trump until Friday at 3pm Eastern time to decide whether to accept the Department of Justice’s call for the documents related to the search to be unsealed. In a statement from the headquarters of the justice department in Washington earlier on Thursday, Garland appealed for their release “in light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter”.
Garland said he had personally approved the search of the former president’s residence, which was signed off by a federal judge, although he declined to offer details on the reasons behind it.
People close to the DoJ probe say federal investigators executed the search warrant on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate after a legal stand-off that lasted weeks over the former president’s handling of classified records from his time at the White House.
The Washington Post, citing people familiar with the investigation, reported that classified documents related to nuclear weapons were among the items sought in the search. But Christina Bobb, Trump’s lawyer who was present at the time of the search, said she was unaware of such contents.
“I have not specifically spoken to the president about what nuclear materials may or may not have been there. I don’t believe there were any in there,” she told Fox News.
During his statement to the press — Garland’s first public remarks since the search, he issued a firm defense of law enforcement agencies after vitriolic attacks on the FBI and the DoJ from Trump and his aides, as well as Republican lawmakers. On Thursday, amid concerns that the backlash could turn violent, an armed man was killed by police after attempting to breach the FBI’s office in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked. The men and women of the FBI and the justice department are dedicated, patriotic public servants every day,” he said. “They protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism and other threats to their safety while safeguarding our civil rights. They do so at great personal sacrifice and risk to themselves. I am honored to work alongside them.”
Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, said in a statement that Garland’s response was insufficient.
“What I am looking for is the predicate for the search. Was the information provided to the judge sufficient and necessary to authorize a raid on the former president’s home within 90 days of the midterm election?” Graham said. “I am urging, actually insisting, the DoJ and the FBI lay their cards on the table as to why this course of action was necessary. Until that is done the suspicion will continue to mount.”