World News

Attorney-General breaks silence on Trump raid, wants search warrant made public

Washington: US Attorney-General Merrick Garland has broken his silence following the raid on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, calling for a court to unseal the search warrant due to the “substantial public interest in this matter”.

Seventy-two hours after the unprecedented event sparked a political firestorm across America, Garland finally commented on the matter amid growing fears that an information vacuum would give rise to more lies, conspiracy theories and threats of violence by Trump supporters.

Donald Trump raises his fist as he makes his way to the New York attorney-general’s office for a deposition.Credit:AP

Delivering a prepared statement at a hastily convened press conference on Thursday afternoon (US time), Garland revealed to reporters that he had personally approved the warrant, adding that this was not a decision that he took lightly.

A copy of the warrant and the receipt was provided to Trump’s counsel who were on site the day, he said, and the raid was “authorised by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause.”

He said the Justice Department had now asked a court to unseal the search warrant, because of “substantial public interest in this matter”.

US Attorney-General Merrick Garland.Credit:Bloomberg

“Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear of favour,” Garland said. “Under my watch that is precisely what the department are doing. All Americans are tight entitled to an even-handed application of the law, the process of the law, and to the presumption of innocence.”

Garland’s comments came a day after FBI director Christopher Wray also spoke out, describing threats of violence against law enforcement agencies in the wake of the search as “dangerous and deplorable.”

Monday’s events at Mar-a-Lago sent some of Trump’s most extreme followers into a frenzy, with many taking to social media encouraging “civil war”, urging people to “lock and load” and asking “when does the shooting start?”

One post called for the assassination of Garland, another suggested to “kill all feds” while others encouraged users to post the address of the judge who signed off on the warrant, with one declaring: “I see a rope around his neck.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks to journalists at the bureau’s Omaha office about the threats.Credit:Omaha World-Herald

The Florida court where the judge works has since been forced to pull his profile off their website as a safety precaution.

While Wray did not provide specific details of why the search took place or what was seized, he told reporters: “We have had in this country over the last few years an alarming rise of violence against law enforcement. Last year, there were 73 law enforcement officers around this country who were killed in the line of duty – as in murdered in the line of duty. That’s the highest number since 9/11.”

An example of the rise in violence emerged in Ohio on Thursday (US time), when authorities reported that a person wearing body armour, armed with an AR-style rifle and a nail gun, tried to break into an FBI building in Cincinnati, “trading shots” with officers as he fled the scene. It is not yet known if the matter is in any way linked to this week’s events.

The probe into Trump has rocked the political landscape ahead of the midterm elections and galvanised Republicans who view it as government overreach.

Meanwhile, as the violent rhetoric continued to swirl on Thursday, Washington was jolted by reports in the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek that the FBI’s search warrant may have been leaked by an informant inside Trump’s inner circle.

Earlier this year, the National Archives – which is responsible for the preservation of government and historical records – retrieved 15 boxes from Mar-a-Lago. However, justice department officials weren’t convinced that there wasn’t more sensitive material at the property.

According to the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek reports, both based on unnamed sources, an informant told the FBI that Trump was lying about this, and knew exactly where the material could be found.

Garland is yet to comment on the matter, sparking concerns among some Democrats that the information vacuum will give rise to lies, conspiracy theories and even greater threats of violence.

Trump has framed the raid as an attempt by the “radical Left” to stop him from announcing another run for presidency in 2024, and has fuelled suggestions that the FBI could have “planted” material at Mar-a-Lago during the search.

In one of his latest Truth Social posts, he has also accused the FBI of ripping off the lock they had asked him to install in the room where boxes of documents were stored.

“In early June, the DOJ and FBI asked my legal representatives to put an extra lock on the door leading to the place where boxes were stored in Mar-a-Lago – We agreed,” Trump wrote, confirming earlier reports that officials had visited months before this week’s events.

“They were shown the secured area, and the boxes themselves. Then on Monday, without notification or warning, an army of agents broke into Mar-a-Lago, went to the same storage area, and ripped open the lock that they had asked to be installed. A surprise attack, POLITICS, and all the while our Country is going to HELL!”

An armed Secret Service agent stands outside an entrance to former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, in Palm Beach, Florida.Credit:AP

Speaking on CNN, Trump’s former chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, acknowledged the former president could provide some clarity about what was taken by releasing the warrant publicly.

But Mulvaney added that the level of distrust towards the FBI and the justice department was so high among conservatives that the onus should be on them to provide an explanation for its actions.

“If it’s valid, and it’s real, and it’s tied to some criminal activity related to January 6, that’s fine,” he said.

“But if it’s just about documents, that’s almost absurd, as that’s the same thing that the FBI was investigating Hillary Clinton for (with her regards to her emails) and I don’t remember them invading her home.”

Get a note directly from our foreign correspondents on what’s making headlines around the world. Sign up for the weekly What in the World newsletter here.

Most Viewed in World

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article