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FBI said to have searched for secret nuclear weapons files in Mar-a-Lago raid

Unnamed sources do not specify origin of bombs referred to in classified papers agents sought; US attorney general says he ‘personally approved’ search of Trump’s estate

Illustrative -- A US military aide carries the 'president's emergency satchel,' also know as 'the football,' with the nuclear launch codes, across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, March 31, 2019 (AP/Andrew Harnik)
Illustrative -- A US military aide carries the 'president's emergency satchel,' also know as 'the football,' with the nuclear launch codes, across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, March 31, 2019 (AP/Andrew Harnik)

FBI agents searched for classified documents relating to nuclear weapons during their raid on former US president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida earlier in the week, US media reported.

The Washington Post on Thursday cited anonymous sources close to the investigation as saying that the privileged documents were among the papers sought by agents during the search, but did not clarify if those files related to American nuclear weapons or otherwise.

It remains unclear what, if anything, was uncovered during the operation on Monday.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday he had “personally approved” the dramatic raid on Trump’s Florida estate and, in a highly unusual move, was requesting the warrant justifying the search be made public.

The country’s top prosecutor did not reveal the reason for the unprecedented search of the home of a former US president, and condemned “unfounded attacks” on the FBI and the Justice Department that followed it by Trump and his supporters.

“I personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant,” Garland told reporters in his first public statement since Monday’s raid. “The department does not take such a decision lightly.”

Aerial view of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP/Steve Helber)

While noting that “ethical obligations” prevented him from detailing the basis of the raid, Garland said he had asked a Florida judge to unseal the warrant because Trump had publicly confirmed the search and there was “substantial public interest in this matter.”

Trump, who has a copy of the search warrant but who has so far declined to reveal its contents, said late Thursday night he would not oppose the unsealing of the warrant.

“Not only will I not oppose the release of documents… I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents,” the former president wrote on Truth Social, the social media site he launched this year.

In another post, Trump repeated his claim that the search was an “unprecedented political weaponization of law enforcement.”

Andrew Weissmann, a former Justice Department official, said Garland had “called Trump’s bluff” by putting the onus on the former president to object or consent to the release of the document.

The Justice Department’s motion to unseal the warrant noted — and did not dispute — statements by Trump’s representatives that the FBI was seeking presidential records and potential classified material.

According to US media, the search related to the potential mishandling of classified documents taken to Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House in January 2021.

Former President Donald Trump gestures as he departs Trump Tower, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in New York, on his way to the New York attorney general’s office for a deposition in a civil investigation. (AP/Julia Nikhinson)

Political firestorm

The FBI raid on Trump’s palatial Mar-a-Lago residence sparked a political firestorm in an already bitterly divided country and comes as he is weighing another White House run in 2024.

In a statement on his Truth Social platform on Thursday, Trump said his attorneys had been “cooperating fully” and “the government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it.”

“And then, out of nowhere and with no warning, Mar-a-Lago was raided at 6:30 in the morning,” he said, adding that agents even “went through the First Lady’s closets and rummaged through her clothing and personal items.”

Leading Republicans have rallied around Trump, and some members of his party have harshly denounced the Justice Department and FBI, accusing them of partisanship in targeting the former president.

Garland criticized what he called “unfounded attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents and prosecutors.”

An armed man was shot dead by police on Thursday after trying to break into an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio, police said.

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Justice Department Thursday, August 11, 2022, in Washington. (AP/Susan Walsh)

‘Without fear or favor’

The Justice Department typically does not confirm or deny whether it is investigating someone, and Garland — a former prosecutor and judge who has a reputation as a stickler for protocol — took pains to emphasize the law was being applied fairly.

“Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and of our democracy,” he said. “The rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor.”

Since leaving office, Trump has remained the country’s most divisive figure and a force in the Republican party, continuing to sow falsehoods that he actually won the 2020 vote.

On Wednesday, the 76-year-old former president was questioned for four hours by Letitia James, the New York state attorney general who is investigating the business practices of the Trump Organization.

Trump is also facing legal scrutiny for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and over the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.

Trump was impeached for a historic second time by the House after the Capitol riot — he was charged with inciting an insurrection — but was acquitted by the Senate, then under Republican control.

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