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Donald Trump: US justice department seeks to unseal warrant

BY: BBC
Donald Trump: Mar-a-Lago search warrant could be unsealed
Donald Trump: Mar-a-Lago search warrant could be unsealed

The FBI searched former President Donald Trump's home in Florida on Monday. The US Department of Justice is asking a Florida court to unseal the warrant that let FBI agents search Trump's home. And this could reveal why.

If granted, the rare request would make the documents available to the public.

Attorney General Merrick Garland also revealed he personally approved the warrant, which was executed at Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago property on Monday.

The justice department has so far not revealed the reason for the search - but the unsealed warrant could.

Mr Trump has until Friday to object to the unsealing - or could release details of the warrant himself.

Monday's FBI search is believed to be connected to an investigation into whether the former president removed classified records and sensitive material from the White House.

According to the Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents were looking for at Mar-a-Lago.

The sources did not tell the newspaper whether the information involved US weapons or some other nation's.

Mr Trump argued on Thursday on his Truth Social platform that there was no need for the raid since he said his lawyers had been "co-operating fully" and "the government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it".

He also alleged that the federal agents had rummaged through former First Lady Melania Trump's closet and personal items.

Until now, the justice department has followed its normal practice of remaining silent during an active investigation - and documents such as search warrants traditionally remain sealed during a pending investigation.

But Mr Garland said he was asking a court to make documents connected to the search warrant publicly available, in the public interest.

He said his decision was also influenced by Mr Trump publicly announcing the search had taken place.

"The public's clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favour of unsealing," justice department lawyers said in a motion filed in federal court on Thursday.

Monday's search was the first time in American history that a former president's home has been searched as part of a criminal investigation. Mr Trump and other Republicans have condemned the move as politically motivated.

But speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Mr Garland defended FBI agents and justice department officials.

"I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked," the attorney general told reporters.

He also said the decision to execute the search warrant was not taken lightly. "Where possible it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means," he said.

Lindsey Halligan, an attorney for Mr Trump, said his legal team is weighing whether to release the warrant before the judge makes a ruling.

They are also considering disclosing photos and video of the search.

FBI agents at Mar-a-Lago had requested that CCTV cameras be switched off, but the Trump team refused to comply, according to CBS News, the BBC's US partner.