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Trump says he won't oppose the release of documents tied to the Mar-a-Lago search

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

After days of silence, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced he wants to make the Mar-a-Lago search warrant public and submitted a request to a federal court to release it. Former President Trump says he wants the documents to be made public immediately, even though he could release them himself at any time.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

The search of the Florida estate sparked outrage from Trump loyalists. The violent rhetoric that followed may have inspired an attack on a Cincinnati FBI office Thursday. We're going to bring you different angles this morning on the story surrounding the unprecedented search of former President Trump's residence at Mar-a-Lago. We're going to hear the latest on the FBI search warrant and learn more about the man that tried to storm that FBI office in Cincinnati.

FADEL: We'll start with NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. He joins us now. Hi, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So days of silence and Attorney General Garland speaks. What did he say yesterday?

LUCAS: So this was a very considered statement from Garland before the cameras - worth noting that he didn't take any questions. But he did say that he personally approved the decision to seek the search warrant of Mar-a-Lago. He said it was not a decision that was made lightly. Of course, it's a decision that was also approved ultimately by a federal judge who had to sign off on the warrant. But importantly, Garland said, the department, as you said, is now asking a federal court in Florida to unseal the search warrant and the property receipt, which is basically a list of what was seized. And Garland, in his understated way, pointedly noted, as you did, that a copy of both of those documents were given as required by law to Trump's lawyers the day of the search, and Trump could have made those public. Clearly, he has not done so. Now the Justice Department is asking to unseal them, although it has given Trump the opportunity to object to the release. Overnight, though, Trump said on social media that he does not oppose that happening.

FADEL: OK, so if these documents - the search warrant, the property receipt - are released, what could we, the public, learn from them?

LUCAS: Well, the warrant would usually say what crimes the FBI is investigating. The property receipt, which is kind of like an inventory, will give us a list of what the agents found at Mar-a-Lago. It probably won't be in great detail. It won't be page by page or anything, but it will give the public a general idea of what was found. And remember, in this case, we know that the Justice Department is investigating what the National Archives had said is the discovery of classified documents that ended up at Mar-a-Lago after Trump left office. But we don't know exactly what the FBI were searching for there. So if the warrant and this inventory are released, we'll have a much clearer sense of what this is all about. It won't be perfect clarity, but certainly better.

FADEL: Now, the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago on Monday, and it wasn't until yesterday, Thursday afternoon, that Garland spoke. Why now?

MARTINEZ: Well, there's been a ton of public attention on this search at Mar-a-Lago. It was unprecedented, as you said, for the FBI to do this, to carry out a court-authorized search of the former president's home. Garland acknowledged, as I said, that it was a weighty decision for him to make, and he did kind of address the why now. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MERRICK GARLAND: The department filed the motion to make public the warrant and receipt in light of the former president's public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter.

LUCAS: Now, Garland is very much a by-the-book kind of guy, and he said, look, the Justice Department speaks through court filings and in court. Often that means that the Justice Department can't say anything about an ongoing investigation. But in this case, as you heard him say there, Trump is the one who confirmed this search to the public. There's great interest in this Mar-a-Lago search, and the department can talk about it by unsealing these documents. And it's going to do it all in a by-the-book kind of way.

FADEL: Now, Trump has denounced this search at Mar-a-Lago, and many of his Republican allies have slammed the FBI and the Justice Department. How did Garland push back against this?

LUCAS: So Garland talked about what he called unfounded attacks on the professionalism of FBI agents and federal prosecutors. And he defended both the FBI and the Justice Department. He said the people who work there are patriotic public servants. FBI Director Christopher Wray had a similar message in a statement that he put out as well yesterday. He said such attacks on the FBI's integrity chip away at respect for the rule of law. And he noted the violent threats against law enforcement and how much of a concern that is.

FADEL: NPR's Ryan Lucas, thanks so much.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.