Thursday’s statement marks Garland’s first public appearance or comment since officers executed the warrant at the Mar-A-Lago Club, taking a dozen boxes of gear after opening a safe and entering a padlocked storage area. The search has been one of the most dramatic developments in a cascade of legal investigations into the former president, several of which appear to be gaining intensity.
The status of the main investigations involving Donald Trump
So far, little has been publicly revealed about what the FBI agents were specifically looking for at Trump’s residence. In keeping with general Justice Department practice, Garland refrained from revealing details of the investigation. People familiar with the investigation said it focused on whether the former president or his aides withheld classified documents or other government documents that should have been turned over to government custody.
Pressure had been mounting for Garland to say something so the public would understand why the Justice Department — and a federal magistrate — believed the extraordinary step of executing a search warrant at the home of a former president was necessary. But Garland in general declined to discuss ongoing investigations.
“Defending the rule of law means applying it uniformly without fear or favour,” Garland said Thursday. “Under my direction, that is precisely what the DOJ does.”
FBI’s search for Mar-a-Lago puts Garland in the middle of a political storm
Trump and his allies declined to publicly share a copy of the warrant, even as they and their supporters denounced the search as illegal and politically motivated but offered no supporting evidence.
Criticism of the search sparked a wave of threats against law enforcement and vitriol on social media sites and elsewhere, as well as threats against the federal magistrate judge who approved the warrant application.
On Thursday, Garland strongly defended the FBI, saying he would “not remain silent when their integrity is unfairly attacked.”
“Every day, they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism and other threats to their security while protecting our civil rights,” Garland said. “They do so at great personal sacrifice and risk to themselves, and I am honored to work alongside them.”
How agents get warrants like the one used at Mar-a-Lago, and what they mean
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association – the trade association representing 31,000 federal law enforcement officers and agents – said in a statement late Wednesday that its officers had received “extreme threats of violence” this week.
“All law enforcement understands that their work makes them a target for criminal actors,” wrote the group’s president, Larry Cosme. “However, the threats of politically motivated violence against the FBI this week are unprecedented in recent history and absolutely unacceptable,” he added.
This is a developing story. It will be updated.