FBI agents who entered Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate were looking for classified documents on nuclear weapons, The Washington Post reported on Thursday. The report, citing anonymous sources familiar with the investigation, did not clarify whether the documents concerned the US’s nuclear arsenal or another country’s. Nor did the sources reveal whether the agents found what they were looking for in the former president’s Florida home. What they did say was that there was concern that the documents would fall into the wrong hands.
The search warrant, however, may provide more details about the FBI’s search on Monday. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a motion with the South Florida court to unseal the search warrant, along with the list of seized documentation. He added that he “personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant,” adding that the move was not taken “lightly.”
But the DOJ has not asked the judge to unseal the affidavit of probable cause, which could confirm if, as reported by Newsweek and other US media, that the DOJ was tipped off by an informer close to Trump.
Trump could have made the search warrant and list of seized items public, but he has not done so yet. However, on Thursday, just before midnight, Trump said he had no objections to the unsealing. “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,” the former president posted on his TRUTH Social network.
He said this was despite them being “drawn up by radical left Democrats and possible future political opponents, who have a strong and powerful vested interest in attacking me, much as they have done for the last six years.” At 12.43am on Friday, Trump posted “publish the documents now,” without explaining why he had not taken the step himself.
In the five-page motion to unseal the search warrant, the DOJ argues that while it initially requested to seal the warrant, it was now in the public interest that the document be made public. “The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” the motion reads.
After Garland announced the DOJ’s move to lift the seal on the search warrant, Trump posted to his social network. “My attorneys and representatives were cooperating fully, and very good relationships had been established,” he said. “The government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it.” The National Archives had asked Trump to hand over White House documents he stored in his Florida home. The agency retrieved 15 boxes of documents in February, but the FBI suspected that the former president had not handed over everything.
The Republicans have attacked the FBI raid on Trump’s home as political persecution. Whether the search is deemed justified will depend on what has been uncovered. Even if the FBI had information from a confidant and some presidential documents were found, if they are of little important, it will be difficult to defend that the search. On the other hand, if the search has turned up classified documents that in one way or another affect national security, it will be difficult for Trump to defend his position.
As for whether charges could be brought against Trump, that is a complex matter. The mere possession of these documents could be considered a crime under US law, but deciding to formally charge Trump and bring him to trial is a decision that will have even greater consequences than the FBI search, which has already sent shockwaves across the country and widened political divisions. It is certainly another decision not to be taken lightly.