Federal investigators feared that Trump had highly classified documents stored at Mar-a-Lago.
They ultimately felt that they had no choice but to pursue a search warrant, NYT reported.
AG Merrick Garland announced Thursday that the DOJ had moved to unseal parts of the warrant.
Former President Donald Trump reportedly kept classified documents that contained such sensitive information that federal officials felt they had no other option but to raid Mar-a-Lago to get them back, The New York Times reported.
According to The Times, which cited "two people briefed on the classified documents," the Justice Department made the unprecedented decision to authorize the raid of a former president's private residence based on fears that the documents were improperly stored at the property.
The Justice Department didn't take the decision lightly; The Times said that a grand jury subpoenaed Trump for the materials this past spring, two months before the feds executed the search warrant.
It first surfaced earlier this year that Trump had moved official government records from the White House to Mar-a-Lago upon leaving office. The National Archives and Records Administration managed to get 15 boxes of them back in January but asked the Justice Department the next month to investigate if Trump had violated the law when he initially moved the documents.
Christina Bobb, a lawyer for the former president, told The Washington Post this week that federal agents removed 12 more boxes from a basement storage area at Mar-a-Lago when they raided the compound on Monday. The paper also reported late Thursday that the feds were searching for classified nuclear documents among the items they seized from the property.
Under the Presidential Records Act, Trump and his staff were required to relinquish records and documents to the National Archives before leaving office. And according to The Times, the archives tried for months to negotiate with Trump and his attorneys to get the documents before taking more drastic steps.
After Trump announced that the FBI had searched his property on Monday, many of his Republican allies began issuing calls for the Justice Department to publicize the search warrant and other underlying documentation. On Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference that the department had moved to do just that, asking a court to unseal portions of the warrant.
Magistrate judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the DOJ shortly after to confer with Trump's attorneys and let the court know if the former president's team agrees with or objects to the DOJ's motion by Friday afternoon.
According to The New York Times, Trump's team is still debating over the best course of action but is considering challenging the release of documents connected to the search.
The classification level of the materials Trump had at Mar-a-Lago wasn't immediately clear, and as president, Trump had the power to roughly classify or declassify anything at will.
Trump's handling of classified material generated immense scrutiny when he was in office. In 2017, The Post reported that he discussed codeword-level classified material with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during an Oval Office meeting.
At the time, multiple Trump White House officials disputed The Post's report about Trump's alleged disclosure of classified information.
Two years later, in August 2019, Trump took to Twitter to release sensitive US military information that he had received during a classified intelligence briefing earlier that day.
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