Executive Branch

Justice Department Files Motion to Unseal Parts of Mar-a-Lago Search Warrant

Matt Gluck, Katherine Pompilio
Thursday, August 11, 2022, 4:33 PM

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department has filed a motion to unseal parts of a search warrant executed at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

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On August 11, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department has filed a motion in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida to unseal portions of a search warrant and property receipt served at a court-approved FBI search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence earlier this week. 

In his statement, Garland said that the Justice Department filed the motion to unseal the receipt and portions of the warrant in light of Trump’s decision to publicly confirm the search of his residence. Though he did not reveal the basis of the search, Garland confirmed that he personally approved the department’s decision to seek a search warrant of Trump’s home. Garland also said that the “department does not take such a decision lightly” and made clear that it was not a possibility for the department to take a “less intrusive” approach. Garland concluded his statement by renouncing “recent unfounded attacks” on Justice Department and FBI officials. 

In the motion, the department requests that the district court unseal the “Notice of Filing and its attachment…absent objection by former President Trump.” The attachment includes the search warrant and the redacted list of “items seized pursuant to the search.”  

The department says in the motion that in determining whether to unseal court documents, courts must balance “a party’s interest in keeping the information confidential” with “the public interest in accessing” those documents. According to the motion, courts must consider, among other things, the credibility of the information within the documents; whether making these documents public would harm the court’s functionality; the implications of unsealing for relevant privacy interests; the opportunity for parties to respond to the information becoming public; whether the information is related to "public officials or public concerns"; and “the availability of a less onerous alternative to sealing the documents.” 

The department asserts that in light of the “public interest” in the search of Trump’s residence, “the government believes these factors favor unsealing the search warrant” and its accompanying documents. The department notes that Trump should have the opportunity to respond to its motion and object to its requests. 

You can watch Garland deliver his statement here or below:

And, you can read the Justice Department’s Motion to Unseal Limited Warrant Materials here or below: 

Matt Gluck is a research fellow at Lawfare. He holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College.
Katherine Pompilio is an associate editor of Lawfare. She holds a B.A. with honors in political science from Skidmore College.

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