OnPolitics: Justice Department files motion to unseal Mar-a-Lago search warrant

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Former president Donald Trump as he departs Trump Tower on Aug. 10, 2022.

Good afternoon, OnPolitics readers!

A political action committee affiliated with former President Donald Trump that formed to spread debunked voter fraud claims and try to overturn Joe Biden's win in the 2020 presidential contest has since raised millions and come under attack for how it has spent its dollars and allegations it misled donors.

What is the Save America PAC? The Save America PAC is a Trump-backed political action committee (a commonly used vehicle for candidates to raise money) that formed six days after the 2020 presidential election to spread debunked voter fraud claims.

It is classified as a leadership PAC, a designation given to a political action committee that allows politicians to raise funds for other candidates. The Save America fund differs from a candidate committee, which is used to raise money directly for the politician who formed it.

What is Trump using the money for? Trump and his allies have used the money to donate to far-right campaigns, pay for events, including Trump's Jan. 6, 2021, speech that preceded that attack on the Capitol, and to compensate a fashion designer who styled Melania Trump, USA TODAY found.

The Save America PAC received scrutiny from the House Jan. 6 committee investigating the Capitol riot this summer. The committee found Trump disseminated false claims about the election to raise millions of dollars that benefitted the committee even though he lacked evidence of widespread voter fraud.

The Save America PAC still has millions of dollars of cash on hand, and Federal Election Commission regulations leave Trump positioned to use the funds if he chooses to launch a 2024 presidential campaign.

It's Amy and Ella with today's top stories out of Washington.

Justice Department files motion to unseal Mar-a-Lago search warrant

The Department of Justice has asked a federal court in South Florida to unseal a search warrant and property receipt related to the Monday search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.

“Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly, without favor,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “Under my watch, that is precisely what the Justice department is doing.”

The DOJ’s motion came “in light of the former president’s public confirmation” as well as “the substantial public interest in this matter,” Garland said. You can read the motion here.

Garland also confirmed Thursday that he personally approved the search of Trump’s Florida residence, asserting that the Justice Department “does not take such a decision lightly.”

It's now largely up to Trump to decide whether the public will see the Department's reasons for the search of his Mar-a-Lago home. His lawyers can object to DOJ's request to unseal details of the search, a filing that requests such a release "absent objection from former President Trump.”

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What we really know about the Mar-a-Lago search warrant

Republicans and Democrats alike have tried to spin the FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida for their own political purposes. That’s especially the case with the search warrant, which has been sealed by a judge.

Most of those blustering about the warrant can't know what they're talking about for sure. Few people have seen it other than those who approved and executed the warrant and the documents filed in support of it by the Justice Department and the FBI, according to a host of law enforcement officials, constitutional scholars and legal experts interviewed by USA TODAY.

"What we do know is that a neutral and detached magistrate agreed that there was probable cause that a crime has been committed and that evidence of that crime would be found at Mar-a-Lago when the search was executed. And that's not chopped liver," said David Laufman, who headed the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section until 2018.

The search warrant was signed off on Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart. In the days since, he’s become the subject of broad speculation and has touched off a cascade of angry responses from Trump's allies and supporters.

Most Americans would like to see an end to the Electoral College – and support electing future presidents by popular vote instead, according to new data from the Pew Research Center published last week. --Ella & Amy

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Justice Department files motion to unseal Mar-a-Lago search warrant