By Rita Li
Republicans are calling for the release of an FBI affidavit that lays out in detail the legal justification for the search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence.
They want to know exactly what persuaded a federal judge to issue the search warrant, given that the affidavit of the Mar-a-Lago raid has yet to be made public.
“Releasing the affidavit would help, at least that would confirm that there was justification for this raid,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Aug. 14.
A search warrant used by the FBI and an inventory of seized documents released last week after the unprecedented Aug. 8 raid, showed that Trump allegedly had four sets of top-secret documents and seven other sets of classified information at his home, and that the Justice Department conducted the search based on possible Espionage Act violations.
Trump, on the other hand, slammed the raid as “not necessary or appropriate,” arguing that he had “declassified” all of the records he took to Florida before leaving office.
GOP lawmakers deemed the FBI’s move a “witch hunt” driven by political motives, and are joining in the calls for a detailed justification.
The Justice Department should “show that this was not just a fishing expedition, that they had due cause to go in and to do this, that they did exhaust all other means,” Rounds said. “And if they can’t do that, then we’ve got a serious problem on our hands. If they are able to do that and to come forward, they should do that as quickly as they can.”
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a former FBI agent, said the search of Trump’s home “was an unprecedented action that needs to be supported by unprecedented justification.”
Unlike the currently unsealed search warrant and receipt, the probable cause affidavit would shed light on whether that standard was reached, Fitzpatrick told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Aug. 14.
The calls for more detailed information increased a day after top Democrats asked intelligence officials on Aug. 13 to review potential damage that allegedly stemmed from Trump’s mishandling of government documents, saying such conduct could put “national security at grave risk.”
Separately, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the top Republican member of the panel, on Aug. 14 sent a private letter to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence regarding the raid, asking for causes that had driven the action, Rubio’s office told Axios.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Aug. 11 that he had “personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant.”
“Garland claimed there was a substantial public interest in the execution of an unprecedented search warrant on President Trump,” Rubio said in a statement. “As such, the Intelligence Committee has asked the Department of Justice to share with us, on a classified basis, the specific intelligence documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.”
Michael Turner (R-Ohio), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, said during an Aug. 14 appearance on CNN that the Biden administration should provide more details on what led to the search.
“Congress is saying, ‘Show us. We want to know—what did the FBI tell them? What did they find?’” Turner said.
The Department of Justice did not return a request for comment on the affidavit.
Reuters contributed to this report.