Justice Department files in court to unseal Mar-a-Lago search warrant

US Attorney General Merrick Garland arrives to speak about the FBI’s search warrant served at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday that the Department of Justice filed a motion to unseal a search warrant and property receipt relating to the search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property.

CNN’s legal analyst Elie Honig described the announcement as a “remarkable and unusual move” because “we essentially saw Merrick Garland call Donald Trump’s bluff.”

In the wake of this search warrant, Trump and his lawyers have two documents, Honig explained on CNN following Garland’s remarks. “One is the search warrant itself with whatever attachments. And the other is this inventory or this receipt.”

These documents have important information about the search. Usually, the Justice Department’s policy is to only speak about things that are on the record with the court. But with this move, Garland is hoping to put these documents in front of Americans, Honig said.

The warrant typically will list logistical information: place to be searched, a general description of items to be searched for, the name of the judge, a deadline by which the DOJ has to execute the search.

But it also sometimes has an attachment, which typically will list the laws that the DOJ has probable cause to believe were violated. 

The second document is the inventory or the receipt.

“It’s a listing. The FBI says, ‘here are the items that were removed from Mar-a-Lago.’ Again, degrees of specificity and generality tend to vary. I do not expect that to have a piece of paper by piece of paper breakdown if they took thousands of pages,” Honig explains. “I think what we’re going to see is listings like X number of boxes. If they took any electronic documents, if they took any laptops, cell phones, that kind of thing.”

However, Honig notes that we will not see the affidavit, which is the most detailed document, that can be 20 to 100 pages where prosecutors lay out details that give them probable cause to believe laws were violated.

That document will remain confidential, and typically, that is released if and when there is a charge, Honig explains.

“If somebody gets searched and then indicted, then they will be given a copy of that affidavit … so that that person can then challenge it in court,” he said. 

WATCH: CNN Elie Honig breaks down how Merrick Garland just called Donald Trump’s bluff

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